Digitizing at school is much more than just putting a few computers in the classroom, putting a cell phone, tablet or laptop in each student’s hand, but continuing teaching as before. Digitization is a completely different way of teaching and learning, because when individualization and self-determined learning do not belong together, you don’t use 90% of the benefits of digital technology. In several previous articles (see below) I already discussed how digital education might look like, but instead of seeing the enormous opportunities, I am repeatedly confronted with various prejudices. That’s why I start with the most common and try to refute them as good as possible. The prejudices actually only confirm what digitization is certainly not:
1. Prejudice: The digital classroom is full of electronic devices
Even if no smartboard hangs in front, you can teach digitally. The amount of electronic aids says nothing about how digital the classroom is already. In an emergency, a handful of smartphones, a laptop, and the Internet are enough to produce digital content. Devices are like tools that you have to master, but if they don’t serve, then they have nothing to do in the classroom.
2. Prejudice: The computer replaces real encounters
A major criticism is always that students have no or less real encounters when using the computer. But if that is true, we wouldn’t be able to teach in a classroom anymore. Securely 90% of our teaching is not real, it’s abstract! With digitization we would even have the chance to make more real encounters because individualized digital exercises take less time and are more efficient.
3. Prejudice: The students only sit in front of the screen the entire day
The computer is a tool and not the content. The learners will do exercises on the computer, but most of the time they will spend designing and producing their own exercises. They create, dialogues, texts, audios, videos, texts with gaps, etc., which are only digitized in the last step.
4. Prejudice: Digitization in school is traditional instruction with a computer
Exactly not, the opportunities offered by digitization can only be exploited if we make the teaching individual and self-determined. With traditional teaching we have reached a deadlock: the good students are bored and the weaker ones are overwhelmed.
5. Prejudice: In digitized lessons everyone does what he wants
At first glance, it may be true to see students working in different groups on different projects. It is also desirable for learners to be able to focus in part on their own interests. However, there are always individual goals for each student that the teachers coach, control and review.
In alternative learning models such as those of Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner and others, self-determined learning has always been important for school success, therefor it’s nothing new. Today, however, this ability is more important than ever, because we are facing a fundamental change in the world of work: the classic career from a simple employee to a department head to CEO is becoming increasingly rare. The reality today is that companies emerge and disappear, as employees you sometimes work in different companies, sometimes perhaps in two places at the same time, perhaps even as a founder of a start-up. Skills are required where official training is not existing yet, flexibility and creativity are necessary. These qualities don’t fall from the sky, if we don’t promote and develop them at school, today’s students will have difficulty finding their way in the world of work. Of course, there is a need for common standards, such as good expression and comprehension in your own language, numerical comprehension, a basic understanding of countries, cultures and religions, foreign languages, etc. However, learners should gain more and more autonomy to reach those standards. In the future, AI will help students to improve low results and show what they already know well. However, as teachers we won’t run out of work in the future: in addition to our job as a knowledge transmitter, we become a consultant and coach for each individual. We need to know and promote the potential of each student, and hopefully soon assess them individually, let’s prepare learners for a rapidly changing work life!
Individualization isn’t a new topic, since I started my teacher career more than twenty years ago, they already talked about it. But individualization is very difficult to implement in daily school life: It does not mean that you just make a few groups and say, “Well, the fast ones do that, the others finish the exercise and those who have not understood it yet, will come to me”. While this example distinguishes between different abilities, it is not real individualization, this would be true if each child really had a program tailored to his needs. With 20-30 students probably a project of impossibility. Thanks to digitization, we can compile individual programs, evaluate the results automatically and discuss them with the students. Individualization also means more efficient learning: I am convinced that the exercise phases will be decisively shortened because everyone can work on their own weaknesses. The gained time, we can use to allow real encounters, to devote to personal interests or simply to play more again.
This article was first published on LinkedIn under: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/digitization-individualization-self-determined-learning-walder/
What do you think? Which prejudices of digital education are you confronted with? I look forward to your comments.