21st Century Learning
4 Ways Digital Tech Has Changed K-12 Learning
Digital technology has taken the world by storm — particularly in the past decade. It makes sense that this trend would have an impact on
K-12 learning because there is nothing in modern American society that digital technology has not touched. While the names of the mobile
applications and computer programs may change, there are some foundational ways that technology has already changed the face of education
forever. Below are four examples.
Students can now work together on basic assignments and larger projects without having to meet at the library after school. Email and cloud
applications make it simple for students to collaborate with each other remotely. Even in person, the information the students find can
instantly be saved to a shared location and then accessed later on without waiting on each other to move forward. The digital collaboration
that is going on in K-12 classrooms is indicative of the way the workplace is shifting to more remote access of information — and global
working relationships that operate with ease.
Along with easy sharing of information, K-12 students today can access research in ways that were unheard of when their parents were in school.
Electronic academic databases provide all of the information a student needs to research an assignment or write a term paper, but with much
less of the manpower needed. The way that information is obtained is certainly different today than in past K-12 generations, but the need to
vet that data still exists — perhaps even more so.
With so much information at their fingertips, sorting through it to find the right, best answers becomes a lesson in itself. Educators must
teach students how to research to cut through to the most accurate information. When all else fails, students should still have a grasp of
"old fashioned" research that entails physically searching for, obtaining and reading material from a library shelf.
Owing largely to access to online learning programs, 2012 was
the first year that one-third of the nation's 25 to 29 year olds had earned at least a bachelor's degree. The prevalence of online learning
trickles down to K-12 settings too.
In the 2011-2012 school year, there were 275,000 full-time online K-12 students, and a total of 1.8 million distance education enrollments.
Remote learning is no longer an all-or-nothing option for K-12 students. Many can choose just a few online courses, particularly in subject
areas that interest them but may not receive enough coverage at their physical schools. States like Florida require that all high school
students take at least one virtual class before graduation in order to prepare them for the world of college learning, and the workplace after
Online learning is also viewed as less of a threat to traditional classroom settings than when it first hit the K-12 scene, with many
educators now seeing the benefits of the two learning styles operating together to build well-rounded learners.
The ways that educators get ready for lessons, and are being taught to get ready for future lessons, have changed along with the technology
times. Nearly 73 percent of teachers use mobile applications for
classroom activities and many reach out to their peers all over the world through social media sites. Online networks like Pinterest are
full of ideas for everything from kindergarten holiday crafts to science experiments.
Like students, teachers have access to a world of ideas, lessons and information at their fingertips — and like students, teachers must
sort through the bulk of the data to find the best options for their classroom activities.
What other ways do you think that technology has changed the face of learning?
Dr. Lynch is an award winning writer, activist and the Dean of the School of Education, Psychology, & Interdisciplinary Studies and an Associate Professor of Education at Virginia Union University. Please visit his website at drmattlynch.com for more information. Follow him on twitter @lynch39083