Wednesday, February 14, 2007


TheirSpace, a DEMOS ThinkTank document, lies beyond the leaden prose of government department reports on schools, technology and learning.

They see the Digital generation, born in the 90s, falls into four types:

1. Digital pioneers: early adopters of anything new
2. Creative Producers: build sites, share photos, video, music
3. Everyday communicators: texters and MSN users
4. Information gatherers: google and wikipedia

School's out
‘Boxes and corridors’ schools simply batten down the hatches as kids connect, exchange and create in new ways, largely outside of schools. Schools need to recognise this learning outside of the classroom, as it’s the knowledge economy that matters in terms of future employment.

The findings from surveyed parents are particularly interesting with six myths identified:
Internet too dangerous for children
Junk culture taking over kids’ minds
No learning through digital technology
Epidemic of plagiarism
Kids disengaged and disconnected
Kids becoming passive consumers

Learners need to be not lust literate but multiliterate across a range of technologies. ‘Looking in a book just takes ages’ says a 13 year old. Look how self-motivated they are with technology. They feel ownership, purpose and learn from each other in ways schools can’t imagine, yet alone deliver.

Schools need to learn
Schools need to embrace and build on informal learning with technology. They need to fully understand the relationships with parents, families and wider social networks outside of school and ‘bridge’, not subsume, this enthusiasm into their structures. This starts with people

The world has changed so why haven't we?
Here the report strikes gold. The flow of knowledge is both ways to and from school. It requires capacity building with parents. Far too little contact is made through parents so that they can help build bridges. Bringing homework and coursework into the 21st century is an obvious example. Reverse IT training is another excellent idea – use the skills of the kids to teach others, including teachers, as is peer-to-peer technology tuition and a cool tools monitor.

Some quibbles
Constant references to BBC Jam as an exemplar are odd – it's not. Words such as creativity and creative portfolios are also used without real grounding. The old ‘digital divide’ debate is also misleading. At one point the report says that 82% of kids had access to a computer at home in 2002. This is much higher than with access to books but we don’t hear the phrase ‘book barrier’ being bandied about. The suggestion that schools should take responsibility for getting the hardware to kids is also plain wrong. This is a parent thing.

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