Global Educational Trends
Today’s student population being technology savvy interact digitally with one another and with information, at an increasing ratel. This is what makes digital citizenship so imperative. Digital Citizenship is a prime example of the impact technology has made on human behaviour and interactions. The basic definition for a digital citizen is ‘someone who utilizes information technology in order to engage in society, politics, and government’. Educator Terry Heick defines digital citizenship as, ‘The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.
Digital Citizenship means respecting other’s privacy, seeing things from a different perspective, contributing information and offering feedback. Students can be taught to use internet and social media in a responsible and ethical way and thereby improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others.
The concept is not easy for students to wrap their head around, especially for those of the third world, who are just coming to terms with their role in the digital world. But you hand students a world of digital possibilities without a ‘How to use’ catalogue, the only predictable outcome is irresponsible use of digital tools. For example, if a school student in Sri Lanka sends questionable photographs to a trusted ‘friend’, who is to blame? The student who sent the photographs, recipient who later decides to exploit them, the parents who provided the student with the smartphone or the smartphone itself?
If responsible Digital Citizenship was inculcated at an early age there is no need to play the blame game. Students would learn to use social media wisely and potential perpetrators may learn to be more empathetic.
Educators’ responsibility in teaching digital responsibility is increasingly being discussed at international level education forums, emphasizing schools’ role in teaching students to be more mindful, responsible users of technology.
In this sense Digital Citizenship can be considered a form of ‘digital empathy’ that students are encouraged to inculcate to see beyond oneself in the digital company of others. This would effectively put a stop to cyberbullying and reckless use of digital communication.
This can be defined as a more student-oriented learning trend. Personalized learning is an experience designed for each student that targets their specific needs. In other words, personalized learning adjusts learning components such as content, pacing, technology, learning models, sequence according to the knowledge demands, intelligence and learning purpose of each student. As opposed to more traditional teaching methods where all students are treated equally, this approach tweaks the curriculum to match the student’s needs and strengths. It offers multiple curriculum options and more than one way to learn the same content at the pace of each individual student, with a focus on individual interests.
The objective of the personalized learning is to not only create a good student, but also one literate about the whole learning process. For example, personalized learning caters to different students based on how they best learn, whether it be reading, watching or listening; alone or with other students and at their own pace, with the choice of seeking help or going it alone. A host of learning methods maybe used under personalized learning, such as videos, articles, breaking news and projects.
In the case of personalized learning, literacy means a wide range of dynamic information skills developed around learning activities, such as acquiring knowledge and skills through resourceful and responsible utilization of information. The teacher is responsible for maintaining a learning environment that encourages students to pursue personal interests and nurtures knowledgeable, resourceful and caring citizens. The student’s role in a personalized learning experience is to identify and pursue new areas of interest in consultation with the teacher and resourcefully learn and produce from that learning. The expected outcomes of personalized learning is life-long learners who are skilled, knowledgeable, curious and engaging.
According to the Oxford dictionary Gamification involves the application of typical elements of game playing, such as point scoring, competition with others, rules of play, to other areas of activity, in this case, education. Gamification is an effective educational tool in motivating students to learn by using video game design and game elements in a classroom setting. It’s a sure-fire way of keeping student engagement in the learning process.
A very rudimentary example of gamification in the classroom is to introduce a rule. Every time a student breaks the rule, the teacher earns a point and every time a student follows the rule the class gets a point. It’s a basic teacher vs class game, easy for any school child to understand. If the class wins the students are duly rewarded with less homework or extra few minutes break. This type of game is ideal for introducing procedures and behavioral expectations.
Games have many elements that make it a powerful learning tool. They are essentially developed to inculcate problem solving skills. Games are known to promote communication, cooperation, and even competition amongst players. Some of the more elaborate games hone creativity and imagination and can both teach and test the player simultaneously, making them an ideal addition to the classroom.
Online gaming option providers such as Classcraft, Class Dojo, and Rezzly are becoming increasingly popular with the western classroom. Gamification of the traditional classroom would no doubt help increase student engagement.
Genius Hour is an interesting concept that allows students to explore their own interests and encourages creativity in the classroom. Similar to Personalized Learning, it provides students a choice in what they learn during a certain period of time at school. During this time students are left to their own devises to be guided by their passions, background knowledge, and curiosity to learn. During Genius Hour, students are in control, and are allowed to choose what they study, how they study it, and what they produce as a result. This innovative learning model promotes inquiry, research, creativity and self-directed learning, according to Terry Heick.
It may seem less standardized and informal compared to traditional learning. In fact, a salient feature of Genius Hour is that it lacks specific rules, but this open ended system also encourages students to develop passion-based learning and autonomy in students.
Under the guidance of teachers, students are asked to pick a topic and a driving question to guide their research. Students are expected to do research, reading books, articles, browse the net, watch videos and communicate with resource personnel. Genius Hour also requires tangible take-ways, such as a video that students make based on their research, a blog, a script for a play or a short story. As the final and most vital step of Genius Hour students are required to reflect on their project.
The ultimate objective of Genius Hour is to enable students to create something uniquely personal and compelling and also learn something in the process. Moreover, this is a welcome diversion from the rigid, test-driven, and achievement-based assessment of traditional school culture.
(This article is the 16th installment in a series of articles which discusses education related issues on a fortnightly basis in counterpoint.)