The children now entering school are fully fledged digital natives. Recent research by Ofcom found that six-year-olds have the same understanding of communications technology as 45-year-olds, and a ‘millennium generation’ of 14- and 15-year-olds are the most tech-savvy.
Many households now have a smartphone, laptop or tablet, meaning that children are becoming digital-literate before they’ve even started primary school – and we’ve all heard about the techno-babies who can handle an iPad before they have learnt how to tie their own shoelaces.
It is unsurprising, therefore, that technology is playing an increasingly central role in the classroom – not just in ICT lessons, where children will start learning to write code from the age of five this year, but in English, Maths and Science lessons as well.
“I recently took part in an interactive experiment run by Argos and Intel, which involved sitting through two English lessons – one the old fashioned way without any kind of technology, and the second with all the latest gadgets at my disposal,” said an UK based educationist Sophie Curtis.
“The first involved reading a scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, listening to the teacher talk through the themes and then writing my own analysis with pen and paper. The second involved watching a series of video clips depicting differing interpretations of the balcony scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, using the internet to research the themes, and then typing my own interpretation on a laptop. While the first lesson required intense and sustained concentration, the second was undeniably more compelling. I’m not sure I learnt any more about Romeo and Juliet than I did about Macbeth, but at no point during the second lesson did I find my mind wandering, which is half the battle teachers fight every day.”
Anyone who has been through a more traditional education system may find these techniques gimmicky, but many teachers now claim that flashy multimedia lessons are the only way to engage children whose ability to absorb information has been shaped by continuous exposure to technology from a young age.
Using technology in an educational environment not only better reflects children’s life outside the classroom, but also allows them to hone their digital skills in a way that will continue to be valuable throughout their adult life.
“The use of mobile digital technologies in the classroom might be largely unfamiliar to parents, but the benefits can be huge,” said Drew Buddie, senior vice chair at Naace, the association for the UK’s education technology community.
“It’s not about just shifting traditional lessons onto screens – it’s about allowing pupils to make use of their devices to truly enhance their learning while giving teachers better ways to track individual achievement and personalise lessons.”