Embracing a Digital Classroom
Welcome to the 21st Century of Primary Education – We are only 18 years in!
Classrooms around the world look very different than they did fifty years ago. In fact, they look very different than they did just fifteen years ago. Primary students no longer sit in rows of desks filled with pencils and paper. They no longer spend their days working through packets of worksheets. A 21st century classroom changes the landscape of education.
Students of today will join a global workforce dominated by technology. Our educational system must equip our students to work collaboratively on projects, communicate their ideas clearly, creatively solve problems, apply critical thinking skills, and cooperatively work toward a common goal. We must shift our focus to building the skills our students need rather than looking at just scores. Our students have the world at their fingertips. They can search for a fact or access a calculator in seconds. However, they need to learn to apply that knowledge to the world around them.
Rather than students sitting in rows, we now have students working together at collaborative tables. Flexible seating replaces traditional seating. We are trading our paper and pencils for laptops, tablets, digital platforms.
A Digital Classroom
Even our youngest students are using digital learning and new technology. Primary students can listen to a passage, try to read it themselves while recording their voices, and listen to themselves to check for accuracy and fluency. Virtual field trips allow them to see historical places all over the world. Scientific experiments can be observed with a few clicks of a mouse.
Digital platforms allow students to work on the same project at the same time. They can type into the same document or create a presentation collaboratively. Peer to peer engagement grants students ample opportunity to communicate their ideas, listen to each other, and make decisions as a group. With the world online, students can access the ideas of others, music, art, and poetry that foster creativity.
Teachers can also glean resources and share ideas with colleagues far beyond their school and district. A teacher in Australia can easily send the great idea she has for teaching the addition and subtraction of fractions to a teacher in the United States, along with all the necessary resources.
Robotics and Coding
Coding, the language of programming in our digital world, may quickly become the most relevant foreign language. Luckily, primary students begin learning it easily by programming robots such as Bee-Bots and Ozobots. Early programming can be directional, teaching students to select the correct direction they wish the robot to travel.
While the purpose of coding may be to program a robot, a primary student gets so much more benefit from the process. They learn to master sequencing and problem solving. They also gain great confidence in their own digital literacy and understanding.
In order for our educational system to fully prepare our students for their futures, it is necessary that we provide digital opportunities early.