This is the 2nd part to my previous post, which you can read here.

We are living in an extremely rapidly changing world due to globalisation, fast growth in areas of economy, technology and mobility. A great shift from an industrial world to knowledge societies places a new need for schooling and teacher education. Today we have professions that didn’t even exist ten years ago, and children beginning their school this year will graduate years later into professions we do not know of yet. According to some researchers, the importance of skilled labour does not vanish, although some of these occupations have disappeared on the information age. At the same time, a new set of professions, which depend on information skills, such as problem-solving skills and ICT emerge. [1]
Perhaps you have heard of the concept Digital Natives. Digital Natives are sometimes referred to as those young people, who were born on the information age, who can hardly remember the time before smart phones or internet. They seem to use technology and mobile devices with ease, even those little ones who can’t properly talk yet, have an ability to search for their favourite videos from YouTube. They also seem to multi-task, working on several tasks at the same time. [2]

However, even if their technology use is seemingly effortless, does it mean that they really know what to do with all the information they see, can evaluate it critically, and know how to use internet safely, following ethical and legal guidelines? According to many researchers the answer is no, and some suggest that digital natives are, in fact, a myth, that we are totally overestimating their abilities [3]. For instance, Kirschner and De Bruyckere propose that this myth can be very harmful for education, if policies and curriculums are designed to suit the so called digital natives. This could be very problematic, if the concept simply isn’t real, if it is based on an assumption of the skills these young people may possess, rather than actual scientific knowledge of their true know-how. Sure, they might know how to  use different platforms and apps, but can they actually do anything useful regarding learning, the researchers ask? Kirschner and De Bruyckere suggest that teaching the necessary skills is crucial, not assuming children have them. [3]

Kirschner and De Bruyckere state also, that often digital natives are in addition considered to be “multi-taskers”, but in fact, according to several researchers, are not multitasking, just switching rapidly from one task to another. [3] Has that ever happened to you? I often find myself reading two articles, one at my laptop and one from my mobile device, and ooops, now someone sent me a message through Facebook, which is also open. The question is, do I really focus on any of these tasks? Can I tell you later my opinion about these articles? Can I even explain to you their main concepts? Perhaps most importantly, can I really be present to my friend when I feel a rush to read this article while eying on what is going on the news today?

 

A Digital Native?
Photograph copyright by Paula Virmasalo

 

According to a research conducted with high-school students by Sana, Weston and Xepeda students’ multitasking on a laptop during a class might not only hinder the learning of the particular student, but also distract other students in their immediate surrounding. [4] This is a complex issue. Students might use the technology “the right way”, to support their learning process (for instance, looking for more information about the topic learned) or they might get distracted with something that has absolutely nothing to do with the content. On the other hand, shouldn’t it be also important to learn to regulate one’s behaviour with technology, devices and social media, to understand when it is time for learning and when for socializing, entertainment etc.? [3]

As I wrote in my previous post, the 21st century literacies bring along new possibilities, responsibilities for all of us. When it comes to children and education, it is extremely important to educate them and help them understand the new dimensions of communication, which are putting us on a new situation, as a picture or a quickly made comment can live forever in cyber space. I believe that technology and new literacies can provide amazing possibilities for the future of education and schooling, but it is good to recognise the risks and determine the need for education.

One of the most crucial needs for education are the critical thinking skills, which should be the core of all education, and practicing of them could start from a very early age. However, that is a topic for another blog post, so I won’t go further than mentioning it. Obviously, when thinking about education policies and curriculums for reading and writing, we should also consider much further than just innovative platforms and technologies, we should consider pedagogical practices and the value they may bring along in the big picture of the change. As Lewis [5] points out, teacher training is often focused in the use of tools such as technology, but may fail on the education of new mindsets, forms of communication and identities that come within the new literacies.

Lewis [5, p.236] asks an important question for all of us educators: Do “we want to make school literacy more engaging for students and more meaningful to their present and future lives in a digitally mediated world. If so, then we need to understand the shifts in practices and epistemologies (conceptions of knowledge) that have taken place and consider how these shifts should inform our teaching of reading and writing.”

It is vital to learn about the innovative ways of reading and writing (as well as it is about the traditional ones). We must consider ways we as parents, teachers and educators can help children become informed, critically and ethically aware, responsible, yet creative and courageous writers and readers of the future. Children of today are already building our digital society. We can support, helping them become not only consumers but also producers of content, participating actively on building a sustainable and fair future for everyone.

References:
1. Griffin, P., Care, E. & McGaw, B. (2012). The changing role of education and schools. In Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (pp. 1-16 ). Springer Netherlands

2. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1. On the horizon, 9(5), 1-6.

3. Kirschner, P. A., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, 135-142.

4. Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers & Education, 62, 24-31.

5. Lewis, C. (2007). New literacies. A new literacies sampler, 229-237.

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