In my job as a Teacher-librarian, I often have encounters with parents who are confused, concerned or challenged by the way their child’s life seems to be surrounded by technology. It is this digital connectivity that alarms parents, as it is so different from when they were children. Marsh (2005) coined the phrase ‘children of the digital age’ when describing such youth who, from as long as they can recall, have been surrounded by ever-evolving digital technologies and practices that impact on their daily existence (Dowdall, 2009).
From an educational perspective, such applications of computer technologies can offer new ways of learning, allowing for significant interests that can lead to learner’s improvement and development (Thunhikorn, 2008). Unlike the television generation, the digital natives of the net generation are inquisitive and self-directed in learning, as the Internet has allowed for the production of new styles of playful learning (Tapscott, 1998). So, it’s not a matter of going back in time to when school resembled sitting silently at individual desks in rows and having your worth measured in terms of your last report card. McWilliam & Taylor (2012) argue that the way of the future needs to see schools provide high levels of appropriate learning support, and increase our expectations of students as they embark on risk-taking and innovative learning journeys while incorporating technology.
Many learning theories support the notion that learning never stops happening, and that learning can occur at any moment. McWilliam and Taylor (2012) support the notion that ‘educational wellbeing is a judicious mix of academic success and self-selected learning’, and so the development of digital literacies can have a positive outcome on the children of today. It is no wonder then that we are starting to observe a shift towards learning through different mediums such as mobile devices, digital cameras, DVD players, computers, and the Internet (Trirat, Soodsang, Phirasant & Suwannawajdr, 2014), as most youth spend their time learning through these current technologies.
In case you have forgotten just how far we have come in the world of digital technology, and are wondering what the big deal is about digital literacies, watch the past 30 years unfold on the office desktop below and then ponder what the next 30 years of innovative technology will look like.
Photographer: Doug Thomsen Engineering by Anton Georgiev
Another significant element observed is that these new technologies also allow children unprecedented power and authority as publishers of multimodal text (Dowdall, 2009). They have become creators and producers of digital text, comments, reviews and videos, as they develop their own online presence through social networking sites. Just as the tools and technology embedded in these sites change, the use of the sites continue to grow (Pew Internet, 2010). It is here that we see the development of digital literacies, as youth take up the position of micro-bloggers with their status updates and online habits viewed through their application of choice. How different this learning concept must seem to parents, as they recall rote learning their timetables, and repetitively writing out their spelling words.