Over the past few months I have been thinking about education trying to justify what actually needs to be taught in a world where information is just a few clicks a away and the phrase “just Google it” has become a part of our educational lexicon.  Since information is so easy to get now, what truly needs to be taught? Do we need to teach force students to remember specific dates of important historical events?  As the world becomes smaller through the use of technology, we as educators must force ourselves to analyze what is truly important and what needs to be the focus.  The following are my suggestions:

Learning:

More than anything I think we need to instill a love of learning into our students.  I remember sitting in many a class thinking my time would be better spent doing something else.  Yes I completed all the work and I played the game, but it wasn’t until university when I was allowed to fully choose what I wanted to learn. It was only then that I truly started to love learning and I haven’t stopped loving it since.  How to instill this lesson into students is an argument for another post but Sir Ken Robinson has a wonderful talk on how schools are killing creativity.



Collaboration:

Schools often use group work in class as a way to help students learn from and with each other and to learn the value of sharing work.  However, as technology makes coloration amongst schools easier to use, we must address issues of cultural differences*, the skills of working with people in different time zone, and the value of teamwork. 

Digital Citizenship:

The world has changed a lot since I was a child; it has changed a lot since I finished my education degree.  The students I teach can’t imagine a world without technology but there are many times where they simply don’t know about how to conduct themselves online.  Last year as I spoke to my students about downloading, more than half did not realize that downloading music and videos off the Internet for free is can be illegal depending on the situation.  During a conversation on Facebook, the majority indicated that they had an account despite being under the age of 13.   I told them that they had lied about their age which is technically against the terms of service.  Digital citizenship includes much more than just legal arguments but also creativity, privacy, cyber bullying, and addressing the digital divide etc.  If these skills are not taught we are doing our students a great disservice.

Balance:

The idea of living a balanced life is an important one.  Ensuring that students understand the importance of making face-to-face relationships, exercise, and learning when to turn off the screen is an important skill. 

If you’ll notice I did not put in any specific traditional content but instead focused on skills that I feel are important.  By teaching these skills within the framework of traditional required contents one can have a truly innovative program of education.  For example, if I was doing an unit on history and was having the students contduct research into Canadian lives during World War II, I would easily tie aspects of digital citizenship by talking about attribution of source material.  I would also allow my students create their own end product in a way that allows them to demonstrate their understanding.  In other words the key is to succeffully blend the skills of the modern age using the required knowledge base to form the backbone. 

Notes:

*Of course cultural differences are already being addressed within many schools but it needs to continue to be addressed as the world becomes smaller through digital technology.

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    Brendan is an international school teacher.  He currently teaches grade 4 at Busan International Foreign School.

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