I thought I’d ought to bring up the fact that I’ve recently had a very kind mention in my social studies tutor, Kenneth’s podcast (currently the only Singaporean podcast to be featured in the ‘education’ category at the iTunes store, mind). Thanks, Kenneth.
According to him, I am apparently among the first generation of teachers to be digital natives – native speakers, so to speak, of the language of computers, video games and the Internet. While I’m not that sure I’m one of the first to become a teacher (I am a latecomer to the profession, after all), I am pretty sure what little tech-language my colleagues speak doesn’t seem to be helped along very much by our system’s approach to educational technology.
We have a particular module in school that’s supposed to teach us technology-oriented pedagogy, which is unfortunately as legacy as you can get. Things like not using too much animated clipart on a powerpoint slide, fun with agents (like goddam Clippy) and an implicit direction towards using “cutting-edge” presentation software like Flash or Director. I realise bureaucracy is a necessary(?) evil of the civil service, but I sincerely hope someone over there realises that multimedia isn’t the buzzword anymore.
We’re living through the most exciting Internet boom since, well, the bubble, and I haven’t heard the term Web 2.0 in class once. I don’t care if its a cliché, it should have been addressed at the very least. What else is blogging, Myspace, wikis, Friendster, IM-ing but Web 2.0? Why aren’t we using the surfeit of web-based, socially-networked apps – which our students already use – to teach them? Why not folksonomies like del.icio.us, flickr and RSS, off-the-shelf tools our students can continue to use outside of school?
Lifelong-learning is the aim, isn’t it?
To be fair though, I understand that the system won’t be able to change in years, much less overnight. As one of my tutors told us today, if this year we changed the exam system to support new literacies (which is another story), the parents of kids (and the kids themselves) who took the exam last year would have our heads.
Nevertheless, I hope it won’t take too long before someone higher up groks the fact that social networks are the new multimedia, exactly like student-centeredness is the new teacher-centeredness (fellow teachers know what I mean). Instead of finding new ways of merely engaging our students, we should be building architecture to connect and share digital information with them and with each other. Metcalfe’s law is the order of the day.
So what I’m saying here is this – social networking is staring us straight in the face while simultaneously aggregating a civilization’s worth of information a mere click away. And all we can talk about in class is how blogs are just for ranting.
I may or may not be a digital native, but I do know that even if I were, it’s not on account of what I’m learning now at school.