Over the past several decades, there has been increased demand for formal education to include the development of generic skills as well as traditional academic subjects, i.e., to include competencies for ways of thinking, ways of working, tools for working, and skills for living. Today’s learner needs a rounded skillset appropriate for a job market where digital savvy and the ability to work within multiple disciplines are both crucial. In a world that is hyper-connected through a diverse range of communication technologies, it’s important for learners to acquire adaptable ways of working with others. Educational technology can address these needs, helping learners acquire learning, literacy and life skills.
Why is educational technology crucial for closing the gap?
Despite the fact learners are not being equipped with 21st Century skills consistently in all locales, educational technology can help close educational gaps. ELearning courses and educational apps help learners to flesh out their life, learning and literacy skills through self-directed study. Free online courses are also helping school leavers expand their skill sets, both within and beyond their own fields of study.
Fundamental subjects such as world languages, mathematics and the sciences remain crucial in schools, but educators are acknowledging the importance of interdisciplinary subjects such as global awareness, civic literacy and environmental literacy. Specialist apps and eLearning courses developed around these topics make it possible for individuals to receive ongoing, current education in these areas.
The 4Cs—critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity—are the basic skills all students need in the 21st century (National Education Association, 2014). Additionally, technology is constantly emerging around us, and expected to be part of every student’s learning experience. if we believe 21st century skills are the key to solving economic, civic, and global challenges and to engaging effectively in those spheres, then we must act upon the belief that using those skills to overhaul our education systems is possible. The addition of technology into the classroom can help transform the classroom experience from a classic teacher centered one into a student-centered experience – with students taking a more active role in their learning. In a student-centered classroom, the teacher becomes more of a guide as the students engage with and tackle the day’s lesson. And there is nothing better than seeing your students fully engaged! It is important to understand that integrating technology into the classroom is by no means a replacement for an effective teacher. To put it simply, the ideal classroom environment would be one that is student centered and includes a carefully selected blend of instructional technologies with face-to-face communication.
Technology provides teachers and students with access to a variety of educational resources that inspire creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
It promotes inclusion and the development of digital literacy skills.
It extends learning beyond the text – and beyond the classroom walls.
It ultimately exposes students and teachers to new online global communities. This in turn promotes a global awareness, which is an essential component to a 21st century education.
Current professional development opportunities tend to be highly inefficient when groups of teachers with dissimilar skills and backgrounds are learning new technologies together. Teachers sometimes struggle to see the personal, immediate benefit – and can disengage from the material. Even the most meaningful conferences and workshops don’t provide the managed follow-up to ensure that the newly acquired skills, strategies, and approaches are being developed and shared with the school community. Unfortunately, in many cases the investments by the school and the teacher are quickly lost. Including technology into the classroom adds an extra layer of complexity to classroom management. Devices can quickly become a major distraction and not a meaningful learning tool.
Lastly, a major obstacle for teachers and students is unreliable technology. Even the best prepared lesson can collapse when there are technical issues! The typical teacher population in most schools includes novice, intermediate and advanced technology users. The growth of digital technologies and the extent to which we rely on them in the workplace means that learners need to acquire not only information and media literacy but technology literacy too.
Crucial 21st Century life skills include flexibility and social awareness, as well as leadership skills and the ability to be productive and proactive.
Education experts in several countries are finding that there is a mismatch between the skills learners acquire in the course of ordinary school learning and the kinds of versatility and varied literates employers require.