Digital Learning, Tech Ed & the future of child education

Education has existed since Neanderthals were booking bonfire-making workshops. Classrooms came on the scene around 2000 BC and by the time Ancient Greece was on the map, schools were as commonplace as togas and sandals. Enter the 20th Century and the emergence of the standardized K-12 system but that’s when something strange began to happen: knowledge kept developing but education did not. Despite advancements in almost every other area of society, kids continued to learn in large groups, with one teacher teaching three subjects for thirteen years. It was, for lack of a better term, Stone Age. But the times, they are a changin’…

In the near future, we’ll see Digital Learning and Tech Ed becoming core components of curriculums in primary and secondary education systems.

A quick refresher on the terminology: Digital Learning is any instructional practice utilizing technology to enhance education. It covers a range of components like virtual learning, game-based learning, online assessment, reporting and community learning. Tech Ed refers specifically to the study of technological knowledge and processes and covers coding, web development, user experience design and numerous other technological disciplines. They’re two sides of the same coin.

It’s no surprise that Digital Learning and Tech Ed are finally finding traction in our schools. While general progress deserves credit, so do the individuals pushing these digital initiatives: Generation Xers – the kids who just missed the birth of the Internet because they were graduating high school during its third trimester. Granted, many high schools in the 90s had keyboard-typing classes and some even offered basic computer programing but these were more novelty than necessity, and not widely available.

Most Gen Xers made up for the education gap in their twenties, but generally speaking, Tech Ed was less of a formal discipline and more the self-taught pursuit of an entire generation playing technological catch-up. Digital Learning? That was still years away. Eventually, Tech Ed became something of a college requirement but only as far as word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools were concerned – the assumed mandatory real-world skills of the time. Essentially, consumer tech was still fueled by reactivity, not by proactivity. That’s what’s changing the most, today.

Scroll down a few decades and it’s an entirely different picture. An increasing number of elementary and secondary schools are implementing digital-based collaborative teaching, interactive learning and even remote classrooms. Before we pat ourselves on the back, however, it bears noting that technology will continue to hurtle along at light speed, which begs the question, what do we need to implement in today’s classrooms to be ready for tomorrow? For starters, coding toys and tools need to extend beyond trendy, progressive parenting and become the status quo for every kid. Playrooms should include early-education coding toys like Cubetto, Code-a-pillar, BuzzBot and Wonder Workshop. Elementary and secondary schools should prioritize funding for digital tools in every classroom so that traditional subjects can be enhanced and new technology classes can be implemented. High schools should implement mandatory coding credits for graduation. Essentially, education systems the world over must make Digital Learning and Tech Ed a priority. Why? Benefits abound…

Digital Learning leverages mixed media for richer educational experiences, helping students digest concepts rapidly, connect theory and application more effectively and apply structure and logic to problem-solving. It gives kids the ability to adopt unique learning styles without addling school systems with added resources. Ultimately, it provides tomorrow’s adults with the skill sets to have agency over their increasingly digital worlds. Employers like Idea Rebel will benefit from younger, more technologically savvy employees who can hit the ground running, armed with skills that would otherwise take more time to develop. That’s why IR supports this effort with an aggressive intern program and a hiring philosophy that assesses candidates by ability, not by age. After all, if the world’s going to raise smarter, tech agnostic kids, organizations like ours need to create opportunities for them to succeed in the real world.

Being proactive in the workforce is only half of the success equation. To truly arm tomorrow’s adults with the tools and skills required to succeed in the digital world, we need to engage them from Kindergarten onwards, implementing Digital Learning and Tech Ed in the curriculums of today’s primary and secondary school systems.

Class dismissed.

April 11, 2017