Many teachers not born in the digital age are skeptical about expanding the use of technology in the classroom. They are concerned about the dangers of “screen time” and the drop in face-to-face interactions between students. They also realize that substantial time will be required of teachers to learn the skills required to make technology useful — time that is already in short supply. Digital learning and technology in the classroom, however, are already making an impact on how our children learn and interact with the world. Innovation in education is inevitable.
Digital Learning Is Here to Stay
Most students currently in our educational systems are “digital natives,” first described by Marc Prensky as “native speakers of technology, fluent in the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet.” He also describes those not born as natives as digital (or technology) immigrants who have one foot still in the past.
Iowa City Community Schools Superintendent Stephen Murley observes, “Technology [digital] immigrants think about technology. For digital natives, children and young adults, it just is.” And the reality is that a significant portion of the teaching staff at many, if not most, schools is made up of technology or digital immigrants.
As immigrants to the somewhat foreign world of digital learning, many experienced teachers are resistant to the presence of technology as a fixture in current and future classrooms. Teacher and educational technology professional Jamie Snitker answers with, “Digital learning is coming whether people like it or not.” She cites several reasons why technology in education is here to stay:
- Jobs in the 21st century will increasingly require candidates to be well-versed in technology. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.”
- The Common Core Standards, adopted by districts across the country, heavily integrate the use of technology with learning.
- Textbooks are outdated the moment they are printed. Online access allows continuous revisions and updates, providing students with more accurate and up-to-date information.
The Importance of Raising Safe and Responsible Digital Citizens
Horace Mann, often referred to as the Father of Education, believed the mission of the common school was to create good citizens, capable of maintaining a healthy society. The definition of “citizen” has been enlarged to include the online population of which our students are already members. Educators at all levels and positions have significant influence over how safe and responsible these citizens become and must be diligent as their students navigate this new world.
- Safety and security — The reality of “stranger danger” is multiplied online. Information that students share is rarely completely safe, and from their first internet interactions, they must be educated about the risks involved in online relationships and conversations.
- Responsibility — As social media becomes more popular, its impact on daily life will increase as well. Students who rely almost exclusively on their online connections to interact with the world must understand the responsibilities they have as digital citizens. Knowing that an offhand comment can go viral, students must learn to practice discretion and civility. They also need to realize that news, even when repeated by their most trusted friends, must be challenged and verified.
Preparing to Lead Innovation in Education
If you are interested in leading others into the digital world, coaxing them out of their comfort zones and into the technology of the future, earning an advanced degree will give you the edge you need to succeed.
Whether or not you are a certified teacher, the Master of Education in Digital Learning and Leading online degree program developed by Lamar University offers the skills and tools you need to make a change in education and empower others to do the same.
The coursework included in this program is designed to “give you the confidence and skills to competently create interactive, learner-centered environments that use instructional technology to engage and motivate students.” In addition, this program will prepare you with the leadership skills to encourage others to not only accept technology as inevitable, but also embrace the use and advantages of technology in the classroom.
Take, for example, the course titled Disruptive Innovation in Education. In it you will discuss and discover how important it is for teachers, classrooms, schools and districts to be prepared for new innovations that regularly replace slower and more cumbersome ones. When you and your co-workers view these “technological innovations as opportunities rather than challenges, students can proactively use those changes as catalysts to enhance their institution’s or district’s learning environments.”
Digital natives are not just tech savvy. They are determined to be involved in the education that will carry them into their future, a future almost foreign to their parents and teachers. Prensky recognizes the urgency of taking our students’ voices seriously. He says, “If we don’t stop and listen to the kids we serve, value their opinions, and make major changes on the basis of the valid suggestions they offer, we will be left in the 21st century with school buildings to administer — but with students who are physically or mentally somewhere else.”
Schools need strong teacher leaders willing to take the radical steps necessary to prepare our schools for advances in technology. A Master of Education in Digital Learning and Leading from Lamar University could be your first step to launching your school into the innovative world of the 21st century, motivating and encouraging your students to make the best possible use of the ever-expanding world of technology.
Learn more about Lamar University’s online M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading program.