29 February 2012

Author Chelsea Slater

There is a huge debate over the impact of social media engagement and increased digital awareness today. Some people say it is a myth - that increased engagement is minimal and so too its impact - but how can we suggest that this is the case?! Kids today are being born with iPads in their hands!

Children of today are becoming more digitally literate than ever before, social networks have become necessities for most and we are able to communicate with people across the globe at an instant, learn from home and be more creative than ever.

Parents, however, are very aware of the dangers the Internet can bring, with distractions and paedophiles some of the most commonly stated dangers as to why parents don't want their children using the web. We should we protect our children, but we shouldn't stop them from becoming the digital natives they can be. We should let them be a part of this new culture and explore the ways in which learning can be at its best on such platforms.

I like to research about what schools are doing to help children become digitally aware. I think that social media can help us to learn more quickly than just traditional ways of learning. Imagine being a child and having a Skype lecture from an expert in America - surely you would take more interest than having a 'normal' lecture from your teacher, right? Or blogging your homework rather than doing it by hand and putting it on your teachers desk the next morning. Not only is your work then being evaluated by your teacher but other people can see it, friends can comment and you develop a folder of your work without having the worry of it getting lost or damaged. These are just a couple of the ways in which you could use social media tools in learning.

Don Tapscott (Wiki), an expert on technology and its role in society, explains how we are using the web. He says that we grow up differently now; that our brains develop differently. He calls this new type of 'brain', "the defining characteristic of the generation." This infographic shows us just how much 11-18 year olds are using social media and how important it has become for them. It shows how engaged young people are becoming and it is important not to ignore this. If children are interested in this stuff, then why not teach it to them?

If more teachers or the education board changed the way we learned by modernizing exercises within class then we could form a more digitally literate body of people. And people would be better placed to stay away from the dangers of the web if they were able to navigate their way around properly. If someone is aware of what they're doing online then they are less likely to stumble across anything that will harm them. The point isn't to never have young people up in class or to never have them hand in a written piece of homework - it is that as more and more things become digital, we have to adapt and teach the children of today the ways in which we can use it effectively and safely.

Talking about this stuff is a touchy subject for some parents and everyone is entitled to an opinion so let's hear what you have to say around the subject. Should we embrace digital learning or hold onto traditional ways of learning for as long as we can?