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Pedagogy for the Digital Age

Today’s digital world is changing at a rapid pace, and these changes are happening faster than we can keep up with.

The 21st-century teenager is accessing technology, on average of 9 hours per day – that’s actually more hours spent on a device than is spent sleeping in their own bed.  Edison’s, Yoda coding, online cloud storage, CNC machining, 3D printing, virtual reality, drones, and gaming are all part of modern day education, but how can teachers possibly keep up?

Compared to previous generations, today’s learner has greater access to web-based resources and has far superior digital skills.  Our tech-savvy students may be able to use these technologies with ease, but that does not mean they can readily learn from them.  Learners need teachers; but are our teachers preparing them enough for the digital age and life in the 21st century?

Current pedagogies that are more suited to our rapidly changing world have been remodelled to ensure that students can take control of their own learning, are active producers of work and have some kind of flexibility within their learning environment.  Some of these pedagogies include:

Personalised Learning

Personalised Learning tailors the curriculum and pedagogy to suit the individual needs of the student and provides them with a flexible learning space.  The classroom is usually set up as a communal space and allows for communication and collaboration, but can be changed if necessary to accommodate for different ways of learning. This flexibility gives students the choice in how and where they learn and what technology they can engage with to meet their own learning goals.  Some teachers have ditched the traditional row desk seating for modular furniture, round tables, a variety of different chairs, couches, cushions, and portable bookshelves.

Project Based Learning

This approach is similar to inquiry-based learning, where students investigate a question, problem or challenge and produce a product in which they can explain, display and present to the public.  They are involved in problem-solving, communication, collaboration, self-management, finding resources, decision making, reflection and critical analysis of their own work. Some popular projects are engineer design challenges, technology challenges, sustainable energy projects, robotic design, and digital fabrication. 

Gamification

The current generation of learners absolutely love games, so why not incorporate fun game elements into a current teaching pedagogy? Gamification involves applying ‘game-like’ principles to a non-game context, with the goals of facilitating learning and influencing student behaviour.  Kahoot, Edmodo, Classcraft, Class Dojo and Rezzly are already being used in many schools. For gamification to be truly effective, however, the teacher must always consider the learning outcome first and utilise more than just ‘leader boards’, ‘badges’ and ‘earning points’.  Gamification should incorporate the deeper elements of games that students find intrinsically motivating such as; a sense of mastery, enjoyment at overcoming a challenge, the thrill of winning and the joy of exploring something new.  This will then directly affect their engagement and motivation and indirectly lead to acquiring more knowledge and skills.

Activated Classroom Teaching

The Activated Classroom Teaching method was developed by Dr Craig Blewitt, and is the first Taxonomy of Thinking and Learning that has been guided by a set of digital-age pedagogies.  This method discourages students from being just passive consumers of information and encourages them to become active producers of meaningful work.  There are 5 digital pedagogy layers for the students to move through and they are labelled as Curation, Conversation, Correction, Creation, and Chaos.  The Activated Classroom Teaching method includes a step-by-step guide in each layer for ‘ways of thinking’ and ‘ways of working’.

So, if you are a teacher, and feeling overwhelmed by the ever-changing devices, apps, virtual field trips, and cloud computing – you are not alone!  While these pedagogies have been remodelled for the digital age, they still stem from traditional pedagogies and learning theories that teachers have been using for years.  Personalised Learning, Project Based Learning, Gamification, and Activated Classroom teaching are all different ways to engage and motivate the digital-age learner, yet they all have these four strategies in common:

  1. Consider the learning outcomes and student needs before the technology/device to be utilised
  2. Involve students in shaping their own learning
  3. Allow students to have flexibility
  4. Encourage students to be active producers of meaningful work

In order for any digital pedagogies to be effective, the teacher should be confident in utilising both the technology and the pedagogy.  If teachers feel overwhelmed, they can make small adjustments to their classroom strategies, and work on them one step at a time.  Conversely, however, technology is changing exponentially and we must keep up with those changes to meet the needs of our students!

About the Author

Written by Renee Irving-Lee

Renee has a diverse background in Education in a variety of settings; including Early Childhood, Special Education and Tertiary Studies.

References

Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (2013). Rethinking Pedagogoy for a Digital Age. New York: Routledge.

Blewitt, C. (2017). Activated Classroom Teaching: A Pedagogy for the Digital Age . Teachernology Publications.

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2011, January). Making the Most of Flexibe Learning Places : A Guide for Principals and Teachers. Retrieved from State Government Victoria: https://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/govrel/ber/2011/berflexiblespace.pdf

Huang, W., & Soman, D. (2013, December 10). A Practitioners Guide to Gamification of Education. Retrieved from University of Toronto: http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/-/media/files/programs-and-areas/behavioural-economics/guidegamificationeducationdec2013.pdf

NSW Education. (2016, November 21). Redesigning Learning and Teaching. Retrieved from Futures Learning: https://education.nsw.gov.au/futures-learning/case-for-change