Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century

This PBS Documentary explores different options of digital media in classrooms across the United States and how it can help their students grow in a constantly changing society. This hour long documentary is worth any educator’s time and effort. Each of these five sites are unique and demonstrate what we can do to adapt to the changes in the environment. With the constant use of teaching, tweeting, Facebook, and gaming, leaners of today are surrounded by technology that aids them in their day to day interactions. We need to take charge in order to entertain students

The first site we are introduced to is Quest to Learn based in New York, New York. This entire facility is technology based and is focused on the principle of game design. Their goal is to promote thinking and thought in order to engage students in lifelong learning. They model this facility after a video game since students have to break a complex process into smaller pieces to win in the end. I really like the idea of this technology based instruction since students can really take control of their learning and incorporate valuable skills into this nontraditional curriculum. The resources they have are plentiful and allow for complete engagement of the students. This video demonstrates a way to incorporate technology in the classroom while also following curricular goals.

Then we are introduced to Digital Youth Network which is based in Chicago, Illinois! This program is meant for student to pursue their passion and help keep them out of trouble. One of the main goals is to have an “equal platform for all to become digitally literate.” I love the idea of this program since not all students have access to means of technology outside or even in the classroom. Having this after school program can help students gain valuable skills as well as make a difference in the community. It is important that students can really find a path they like which is in addition to the curriculum in schools they are learning. For more information, their website is very helpful and use-friendly. I also found a blog on WordPress that has a technology Tuesday which can be important for teachers to explore: This link takes you to the blog.

The third program is at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. The goal of this program is to create a scavenger hunt so students can be more engaged in a museum. What’s important to remember is the culture of museums may not be what kids are looking for these days, so by incorporating technology into learning history lessons, there can be more engagement. Students are still learning content skills by exploring in a meaningful way. What I found most important about this site is the collaboration in peer based learning. If students are working together, they are teaching as well as monitoring the information they have learned. I am a huge advocate of that for students, especially for growth in different areas.

What is unique about the next site, Middleton based in Wisconsin, is the collaboration with the community in conjunction with the classroom. Students are following a GPS to engage in place-based learning. This type of learning is extremely interactive and allows students to focus on many areas, not just the history of the town. They can gain professional development by speaking to the board of the town hall as well as social skills by interviewing residents of the community. Since so much learning takes place outside of the classroom, it is important to be aware of how to engage students in those interactions as well as foster different types of learning environments. This is a really cool way to bring together multiple subjects and create a new project for students.

Last but not least is the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At this environment, these are different types of projects for students to participate in in the hopes of becoming lifelong learners. What is mentioned in this video is very important and that is how classrooms are still based on a 1920s society, resembling the assembly line. Students participate in class for eight hours each day going through a typical classroom environment. This needs to change due to the changes in our own society over the past 90 years. The curriculum at this academy is really leaned towards the stem fields with an emphasis on entrepreneurship. Their slogan of “learn, create, lead” is embodied in the everyday attention they give their students and the collaboration they are creating.

What resonated with me the most was what John Seely Brown said at the end, and that is embracing change. It is so important to recognize that we as educators need to prepare students for the 21st century and jobs that are not occurring yet. We cannot stick with the old system of a classroom and expect students to feel engaged when there are constant distractions around them. By embracing the use of technology in the curriculum, we can improve the lives of students and do our best to prepare them for what’s to come.

Since I personally want to work at an elementary school with students with autism, I can envision some of the technology I want to have in my classroom. I would love to have iPads as apps for students to improve different skills and to engage them. Computers are a must for differentiated instruction and working with the Universal Design of Learning in order to meet each students’ needs. I love the idea of exploring the community and the different options there are of engagement for students. I think practical skills also need to be taught to these students in alignment with the general education curriculum. I am exited to see the changes in the future, and to be able to adapt to accommodate all my students.

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