In an increasingly digital world, technology is becoming ingrained in the classroom and transforming how teachers structure their classes.
The younger generation is already being described as digital natives, and with good reason. In 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that, in households with children aged under 15, there is an average of seven internet-connected devices present – compared to six for all households.
As well as being a useful learning aid, technology is playing a vital role in equipping our kids with the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow. So how exactly is educational technology evolving, and how are teaching methods evolving with it?
The new digital curriculum
Given that computers now impact almost every aspect of our daily lives, computer literacy is being recognised as a must-have skill for today’s students. Australia recently introduced a mandatory Digital Technologies curriculum for Foundation to Year 10, which focuses on knowledge and understanding of digital information systems, and ways to turn that information into solutions that help society, the economy and the environment.
Digital learning trends
For many parents of school-age students, the back-to-school shopping list will now include a tablet or laptop. The multitude of software and apps available makes it possible for students to learn using systems that are tailored to their interests and learning style.
A 2016 RMIT study found that teenage students who play online video games that require puzzle-solving tend to do better in maths and science. The ‘fun factor’ of these games can also make students more attentive, engaged and prepared to learn from their mistakes.
One NSW high school, for example, decided to incorporate the augmented reality game Pokémon GO into its science lessons. When a Pokémon is captured, students learn about the plants surrounding it.
In Melbourne, a new digital education hub is helping students learn about how computers work and how to write code. Queensland’s school system is also promoting digital literacy by teaching students as young as four to program simple robots and complete other basic coding tasks.
Technology can also help students for whom traditional learning methods are out of reach. For example, videoconferencing apps can help bridge the gap between teachers and remote students, and most smart devices have speech recognition software that can be used by students who find writing difficult or frustrating.
Preparing for the future
A 2016 StartupAUS study on the future of work predicts that 40 per cent of Australian jobs could become obsolete within the next 10 to 15 years. Automation is already replacing manual labour and other repetitive jobs, while demand for workers with entrepreneurial, STEM, creative and social skills is set to grow.
Not every child will go on to become a programmer, engineer or data scientist – and technology is unlikely to substitute for social interaction and face-to-face teaching. But by helping students solve the IT puzzle from an early age, today’s teachers are seeing them gain the skills they need to actively engage in the process of shaping their preferred futures.
How is your school utilising digital technology in the classroom?