Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age: Part  Two

Certainly, Educational digital learning management platforms have become a lucrative business this century- it is a shame that professional learning for teachers in how best to organise effective teaching and learning experiences in this environment seems less a priority. This observation is nothing new and confirms the calls by advocates of meaningful integration of ICT into schools such as Jamie McKenzie. As early as 1998, McKenzie argued that schools needed to “spend 25 per cent of [their IT] budget on professional development. Teachers need between fifty and sixty hours a year, for three years, learning what to do with computers.” It was McKenzie who coined the phrase ‘just in time’ learning to describe how teachers best respond to the need to develop greater digital literacy.

If the growing use of ICT by teachers does indeed ‘provide an opportunity to look again at what teachers do and why’ (Loveless, DeVoogd, Behlin, 2001, 65) then the most important priority is to provide teachers with adequate time to do this. If a real renewal in teaching practice is desired, the question of best practice in the use of ICT needs to be explored in a collaborative manner that acknowledges the various repertoires and agendas each teacher will bring. Teacher professional development requires a "collegial, non-directive and supportive [approach] rather than [one which is] coercive in style, and [must] seek to foster professional autonomy." (Wilson & Cameron, 1992, 2).

Bennet, Matson and Kervin, debunk the idea that “that a new generation of students is entering the education system has excited recent attention among educators and education commentators. Termed ‘digital natives’ or the ‘Net generation’, these young people are said to have been immersed in technology all their lives, imbuing them with sophisticated technical skills and learning preferences for which traditional education is unprepared”. On the contrary, they argue, their research suggests that the debate has become mired in a ‘moral panic’ rather than researched in an empirically valid manner. They argue for “a more measured and disinterested approach is now required to investigate ‘digital natives’ and their implications for education’. (2008)

South African researchers Brown and Czerniewicz corroborate these findings and argue further “that the notion of a generation of ‘digital natives’ is inaccurate: those with such attributes are effectively a digital elite. Instead of a new net generation growing up to replace an older analogue generation, there is a deepening digital divide in South Africa characterized not by age but by access and opportunity” (2010) Such a digital divide most certainly exists in Australia, and possibly for the same reasons a digital apartheid has developed in South Africa and other nations. In a nation with such a huge geographical disparity between rural and urban students, it is highly unlikely that rural students have equity of access and opportunity to effective digital education with their urban competitors. The question governments and educational sectors must now address is how to prevent the rise of a privileged digital elite in an equitable and democratic manner.

By Sue Burville-Shaw

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