You are here

Teaching in a digital age: it’s time to catch up and work together

Former secondary school teacher, and new addition to the Parent Zone team, Marjun Ziarati, talks about the benefits of technology and the importance of working closely with parents to prepare young people to cope with life in a digital age

I recently joined the Parent Zone team after four years teaching modern languages at secondary schools in London.

When I trained to teach, it was clear from the outset that this was an interesting time to join the profession; we were entering a digital age and it was important to learn how to teach students born into this era.

Young people (and yes, admittedly the rest of us too) spend hours each day on smartphones, tablets, games consoles and other gadgets. Yet at school, for the most part, students still use pencils, paper and textbooks, even though other work places have shifted to a more digital system.

Schools are now investing in technology to modernise what is often accused as being an antiquated system. However, as with most things in life, this doesn’t come cheap and isn’t as simple as just making a large purchase order of expensive gadgets and hoping for the best.

Without appropriate teacher training, these gadgets remain locked away in a cupboard.

‘Technology is fantastic, but it is also complicated and developing fast’ 

New technology brings so many opportunities in teaching; I enjoyed integrating it into lesson planning and was lucky to start teaching at a well-resourced school where students and staff were handed a tablet, something that isn’t economically viable for many others.

There is so much scope for using technology in language learning; my students loved doing online quizzes, making and uploading videos or using avatars to record their voices in preparation for speaking exams. 

Yes, technology is fantastic, but it is also complicated and developing fast. Young people use new social media apps every day to assert their own identity and communicate with friends and sometimes strangers. My niece could navigate a smartphone from the tender age of three, amusing us with her seemingly innate ability to swipe and open folders in pursuit of her favourite cartoon. Nonetheless, as a toddler she required education and supervision; you hear stories of kids running up huge bills by accidentally purchasing apps online or coming across inappropriate images if left unattended.

‘Young people are still learning about the world and make mistakes, just as we all did (and still do)’ 

The term ‘digital native’ is often applied to young people. It implies experience, but those young people are still learning about the world and make mistakes, just as we all did (and still do).

Sadly, their mistakes may be harder to erase if they involve an embarrassing photo, now out in the digital sphere, out of their control. You could ban children from using certain gadgets or apply fancy parental locks to all their devices, but this may be counterproductive. After all, if a child wants to discover something, they will find a way. There will come a time when they will have to navigate this technology alone. By simply sheltering them from this are we not just doing them a disservice?

‘Schools must rise to the challenge, and teachers need training so that they can support concerned parents’ 

I believe that a team effort is required. Schools must rise to the challenge, and teachers need training so that they can support concerned parents. I have witnessed many tech-related teenage blunders and have been on the receiving end of distressed parents. As a new member of the Parent Zone team, I hope to contribute my own experiences and help support professionals and parents alike in acquiring the knowledge we all need.

Technology will continue to advance, as indeed it should, and along with any positive changes, there are inevitable risks. We have a responsibility to prepare young people to manage these risks so they can enjoy the vast benefits of technology, staying safe along the way.

 

Image: Amelia Wells, CC BY 2.0