Preparing students for a digital world

Part One: Challenges


As I walkabout our school hallways, stairwells and classrooms I come upon many revelations and inspirations. When the students returned to campus recently I reflected on how well they had adapted to the remote learning program and how seamlessly they employed the various digital technologies required.

It then struck me that this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. MAC students have been surrounded by digital technology since their birth and their lives are interwoven with social media, smart phone, tablet, and Internet use. Digital technology is embedded with how they learn, live and connect. There are significant pluses and minuses associated with this reality. There is no question that having access to a library that contains all of the information available in the world opens up new avenues for learning and exploration. But as students (and adults) travel those avenues they are exposed to reams of information that may or may not have a foundation in reality and truth.

While we might think this is a new phenomenon I read an excerpt from a report by Lee Rainie, Director of The PEW Research Center’s Internet and Technology project. He addresses the historical and current perspective succinctly. Using the example of the 15th century invention of movable type and the printing press he wrote, “People who practiced folklore and witchcraft and demonology and alchemy all had new ways to promote their stuff, to solicit testimonials, to speak to people in their own language, and they had a field day.”

“A key tactic of the new anti-truthers is not so much to get people to believe in false information. It’s to create enough doubt that people will give up trying to find the truth, and distrust the institutions trying to give them the truth.”

We recognized some time ago, with the implementation of our 21st Century Learning Skills programming, that there was a need to prepare students to be ethical, safe, and productive digital citizens. The onset of COVID-19 accelerated the use of digital technologies to accommodate remote learning and made it even more clear that our commitment to preparing future-ready students was bang on track. An entire generation of students needs to gain skills and competences to innovate and design.

Beyond gaining technical competency however there is an overriding issue: how do we enable students to sort the wheat from the chaff? Consider this (and it’s a statistic from 5 years ago!): A BuzzFeed News analysis found that, during the months prior to the 2016 U.S. election, the top twenty fake news stories outperformed the top twenty legitimate news stories on Facebook—i.e., they received more shares, reactions, and comments.*

Given this reality it becomes even more clear that re-imagining possibilities requires educators to expend an even greater energy to guide students in the quest for truth. That is a challenge we all must accept to graduate people with real skills.

In my next post, I will share some insight into how we at MacLachlan are imbuing our school with the commitment to accountability, authenticity, transparency and learning all of the steps we must take to empower our students to find what is true.

Author: MacLachlan College

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