The pace of change in the world today is a feature of daily life in the 21st Century.
Educators who were in schools 30 years ago will remember the anticipated arrival of computers into daily life. Probably not many people fully realised the full impact of the rapid development of Information and Communications Technology daily life, but the coming of computers was something that was looked forward to as people felt there would been many social and economic advantages that would come with the widespread introduction of the new technology. There was talk of how computers would take over so much work that people would have much more leisure. Some education systems introduced “leisure education” into the curriculum!
I guess a question remains on whether or not the introduction of computers as an essential business and household tool has brought increased leisure. Many would doubt that it has.
But one thing was true about the 70s anticipation of the coming Information Age. In the 21st century digital technology permeates many aspects of daily life. It would be easy to list the many changes in personal and work lives that have come about as a result of pervasive ICTs, but those things are so obvious it is not necessary to mention them here.
One very important thing that is vital for educators to grasp is the rapid pace of change in work life and the exponential explosion in knowledge that has come about in the years between the final decades of last century and today.
Children born since the start of the 21st century are “digital natives” they are growing up in a truly digital, flat world.
What about the teachers of those children?
Not too many of them would be true “digital natives” most would be “digital immigrants”, they would have had to learn to live and work in the new digital age. The use of the tools of that age does not come easily to all people, teachers included. It must be admitted, however, that just as some people have a flair for learning languages other than their own native language, so too do some people have a flair for learning the digital “language” so essential to mastering the digital tools available to teachers.
Just imagine this scenario – a teacher in a high school who cannot use email, who cannot browse the internet, who cannot use tools like Skype, who does not know anything about Facebook. How can that teacher understand the real needs of the students he (or she) teachers. How can such teachers understand the world of their students and in fact how can they know their students in a way that will enable the teacher to teach the students as individuals?
Such teachers are a bit like teachers who are asked to teach a foreign language to students when they, the teachers in fact cannot speak that language themselves. They are being put in an impossible situation by the curriculum planners and administrators who introduce such initiatives without the requisite professional development of the teachers faced with implementation of the new language.
Do you know any teachers like this? Do you work with teachers like this? What are their lessons like? What is their relationship with their students like?
In Thailand I am sure many such teachers would be found in schools.
Teachers who have not adapted to the Information Age should not be condemned or looked down upon. They deserve and need as much help as possible from colleagues and their employers so that they have the confidence to use ICTs to improve their pedagogy.
Unlike the example of the jurisdictional introduction of a new curriculum above, the students who are the digital natives of the 21st century deserve to have teaching methods and a curriculum that is suited to their digital world and times. This need is not being imposed by administrators or governments as in the case of the imposition of foreign language learning as in the example above, it comes from an inevitable international spread of digital technology. So governments have to get their educations systems to respond to this as an imperative for their education systems.
In the case of Thailand, the government is about to start the distribution of computer tablets to students in Matayom 7 [year 1, high school]. The government should be applauded for taking a big step in providing Thai students with an important digital tool.
The advantage to be gained from this bold and brave initiative will not be maximized unless there is a program to train and support teachers in the use of these tablets. If there is adequate support this program could provide a dramatic swing towards student centred learning in Thai schools
SCLThailand will continue to monitor and encourage the government to follow through with it’s tablets for school children program.