"You can't spell teach without T-E-C-H"

"You can't spell teach without T-E-C-H" (Kevin Jarrett,2008)

Education was an easy establishment to define in the past. Today, we have to rethink and redefine what education, student, teacher are and we have to answer this question : What is it like to be a 21st century student?

Technology has always played an important role in education but the immense change in technology and the growing presence of the internet have changed our students more than ever for the last decade. Today's students grow up with developing technology, access to internet anytime, anywhere available. They have become familiar with mobile phones, computers, digital cameras, console games etc. as soon as they were born. As a result of all these innovations, our students are no longer thinking and getting the information as they may have had in the past. Technology has influenced our students the way they learn, get the information, think and interact.They have become collaborative, autonomous, exploratory and connected learners. Our education system, curriculum and the approaches we believe in are not effective anymore because 21st century students have already found new ways to learn and improve themselves. Marc Prensky coined this term "Digital Natives". They are today's learners and our students at schools. They are the native speakers of the digital age and developing technology. They are fluent in using computers, internet, mobile phones, messaging and console gaming. Connectivity means a lot to them. They are the ones who are always on and connected. As a result of their interaction with technology everyday, they are increasingly web-literate. the rest is the Digital Immigrants who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with technology that digital natives use. Being a digital native doesn't necessarily mean that you will always be. In my opinion, all teachers need to be more familiar with the growing technology because this is the only way to become a digital native. First we need to use and explore the technology personally; than we will find the best ways to integrate it into our teaching to communicate, create and collborate.

Using technology in our classes can help our students become better problem solvers, constant explorers, more autonomous learners, interactive and collaborative. Technology helps to collaborate in global projects, it provides authentic material and is a good way to improve writing and listening skills as well as communication abilities. It updates us. Our students are always eager to use tecnology at schools because it reflects their lives. They are already using it. They mail each other everyday, they send messages via mobile phones, they complete online information everyday, they chat and they spend most of their lives online.

Our curriculums and methodologies we use will always improve. New approaches will be popular and adopted, new goals will be added and our digital native students will always be evolving and changing rapidly as techies. Education, competition and skills are changing. "We are no longer teaching if what we teach is more important than who we teach or how we teach" (Carol Tomlinson,Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom) Our students have already surpassed the limits of our education systems. We should keep the traditional content that works and helps our learners in our curriculums but we should also include the future, the future is digital and it enhance learning. This takes time of course. For us, as teachers, not only using powerpoints as the only tool; and for our students learning to use technology in an effective way. Tecnology is a way of life and a necessity and we should be ready to handle this. It's a long journey and there are a lot to be done not to lose anything on the way.

I'm not a digital native because I was born in 80's and nor an immigrant. I'm somewhere in the middle but I strongly believe the importance of engaging ourselves as teachers and our students as much as we can in technology. What about you? Are you a native or an immigrant? I look forward to reading your comments.

You can read this article "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants" from Marc Prensky for further reading. You can also watch this video. There are many versions of it but this is the latest one.

Regards and all the best;

Özge

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