Stu­dent skills for this dig­i­tal age

Porterville Recorder - - OPINION - Kristi Mc­cracken, author of two chil­dren’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at ed­u­ca­tion­allyspeak­[email protected]

L ee Crock­ett, co-author of “Un­der­stand­ing the Dig­i­tal Gen­er­a­tion,” lec­tures about liv­ing in an age of in­fowhelm where facts be­come ob­so­lete faster than they can be pub­lished. Even our news­pa­pers now ar­rive out-of-date. As the knowl­edge base be­comes more dig­i­tized, ed­u­ca­tors must adapt. Google is in the process of dig­i­tiz­ing 60 mil­lion books which amounts to ap­prox­i­mately the num­ber of books from the top five li­braries.

New tech­nolo­gies keep ad­vanc­ing the rate at which knowl­edge can be con­sumed. With in­creased avail­abil­ity of dig­i­tized in­for­ma­tion, stu­dents are be able to ac­cess al­most any in­for­ma­tion from any cul­ture or place on the planet on their hand­held de­vice.

The types of skills and knowl­edge stu­dents need in or­der to process all this dig­i­tized data dif­fers from what is cur­rently be­ing taught. With mas­sive amounts of data at their fin­ger­tips, stu­dents need to de­ter­mine its au­then­tic­ity and bias. Stu­dents have grown up with a mouse in their hand so they be­lieve that images on the screen are in­tended for ac­tive con­sump­tion. This fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent kind of stu­dent has learn­ing pref­er­ences that dif­fer vastly from the tra­di­tional teach­ing styles.

Be­cause of the dig­i­tal bom­bard­ment, the brains of stu­dents are be­com­ing ac­cus­tomed to this bar­rage. Chronic ex­po­sure to dig­i­tal ma­te­rial means the brains of dig­i­tal learn­ers are try­ing to ac­com­mo­date this on­slaught of data. Their eyes now process and in­ter­pret con­tent of pho­to­graphs 60,000 times faster than text.

Crock­ett quoted a re­searcher from Wash­ing­ton who found that peo­ple can re­mem­ber the con­tent of 2500 pic­tures with over 90 per­cent ac­cu­racy 72 hours af­ter look­ing at them for only 10 sec­onds. A year later par­tic­i­pants had 63 per­cent re­call of those same images. With tra­di­tional lec­ture for­mat de­liv­ery, stu­dents only re­mem­ber 10 per­cent of the ma­te­rial 72 hours later.

Th­ese find­ings sug­gest that ed­u­ca­tors must adapt their teach­ing to ac­com­mo­date a more vis­ual learn­ing style in this dig­i­tal gen­er­a­tion. Teach­ers trained in a print and pa­per world must re­vamp their de­liv­ery style in or­der to en­gage this new learner.

Col­lege and ca­reer readi­ness for stu­dents in this rapidly chang­ing econ­omy is a chal­lenge. The top ten jobs that will be in de­mand in the next decade haven’t even been in­vented yet. Stu­dents can ex­pect to have 10-17 ca­reers by the time they are 35 years old ac­cord­ing to Thomas Freed­man who cited sta­tis­tics from the Amer­i­can Bu­reau of La­bor in The World Is Flat.

How can stu­dents be pre­pared for jobs that don’t ex­ist yet? They’ll need fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent skills to sur­vive and thrive in that world. Fo­cus must move be­yond teach­ing them what they might need to know just-in-case.

The mind­sets of dig­i­tal learn­ers are or­ga­nized around just-in-time learn­ing. When they need to know how to tie a tie, they look it up on Youtube. When they want to start mar­ket­ing their busi­ness, they ac­cess a we­bi­nar on­line. Learn­ers now look up the in­for­ma­tion they want just-in-time to do the next thing they don’t know how to do.

The need for a four year de­gree is com­ing into ques­tion. It ap­pears that con­stant learn­ing, un­learn­ing and re­learn­ing will be re­quired to make it in the dig­i­tal world. Just-in-time learn­ing is hav­ing the skills, knowl­edge and habits of mind to adapt just-in-time for the next win­dow of op­por­tu­nity or area of in­ter­est that opens for the stu­dents.

Crock­ett sug­gests sev­eral 21st Cen­tury flu­en­cies are needed. So­lu­tion flu­ency is the abil­ity to solve prob­lems in real time. In­for­ma­tion flu­ency re­quires as­sess­ing the au­then­tic­ity of facts and the abil­ity to ap­ply them to a sit­u­a­tion. Cre­ativ­ity flu­ency is crit­i­cal for in­no­vat­ing to meet new needs. Me­dia flu­ency is the abil­ity to de­code the mes­sage that is be­ing sent, how well it’s be­ing com­mu­ni­cated and the most ac­cu­rate me­dia for get­ting in­for­ma­tion out there. Col­lab­o­ra­tion flu­ency is the abil­ity to work with oth­ers in the same room or in an­other coun­try.

Crock­ett chal­lenges ed­u­ca­tors to de­sign lessons with th­ese 21st Cen­tury flu­en­cies in mind to bet­ter ac­com­mo­date dig­i­tal learn­ers. He said that teach­ers must pre­pare stu­dents for their fu­ture, not our past.

Kristi Mc­cracken Ed­u­ca­tion­ally Speak­ing

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