As a part of my studies in educational psychology, I spent five weeks teaching at a primary school in Finland. This experience gave me crucial insights about the role of technology and 21st-century skills at schools. Here are some of the key findings.
We are not born with digital skills
Even if teachers, students, and the parents shared the understanding of the benefits of technology in education, it does not automatically mean they are utilized. Very quickly into my teaching period, I understood that not all the students have the possibility to go online at home because not all the families have computers.
Also, not all parents have time or skills to support their kids in using technology. While some parents will turn over rocks for providing their children with 21st-century skills (including ICT awareness and capabilities), some families have to focus on performing the more basic daily routines.
Moreover, schools might have enough devices for just one class. Thus, only a fraction of students gets to use technology consistently. This makes me wonder what kind of ICT-skills can be acquired this way? Digital natives are not born with technological competences. Those skills must be learned.
On a more societal level I began to wonder, how can inequality be prevented, when other children get good transferable skills to make it in the working life from home, and others’ readiness relies on just a few ICT-classes? Naturally, the concern should be directed to the latter group and how to support the ones in it.
Phenomenon-based learning is demanding
In Finland, phenomenon based learning has received a lot of attention from teachers and schools. It is seen as a teaching method enabling 21st-century skills and is also part of the national curriculum in Finland. The purpose is to study complete entities in their real context cross-disciplinary, which helps to increase learning transfer.
However, teachers and students seem to consider phenomenon based learning fairly exhausting. This is the case although the ability to understand the big picture and see the relationship between theory and practice are essential elements of learning and recognized important. This only increases the need for support elements and activities for the phenomenon-based learning at schools.
So, how could we help?
Technology, for example, could be one support element, and with Claned, we could already do a lot. Technology and artificial intelligence could be utilized to suggest relevant study materials to students. With individual or group specific learning paths, we could help students to proceed project-like through the course period.
Automatic reminders, push-notifications, and gamification would pull the students back to study the phenomena at hand over and over again. The technology would support, keep on waking up interest and maintaining engagement and interest, even outside school time.
Besides using technology as a tool for learning, students would also learn about the possibilities of technology in a natural context, which helps to increase students’ ITC awareness and skills.
Yesterday vs. future work-life
Children want to learn and feel themselves as competent members of society.The children are our future and it is crucial that we support the teaching and learning of 21st-century skills both at home and at school.
Not understanding the importance of acquiring these skills and investing in them is a disservice that prepares our students for yesterday’s work-life. This will backfire in the future not only on an individual level but on the societal level as well.
What kind of experiences have you had regarding the use of technology in your class, and how could the learning of ICT-skills be supported best? We are keen to hear about your experiences. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.