Are the Digital ‘Natives’ getting restless? 

Just this weekend, I was reading an article in one of our national weekend papers that was outlining quite a few points that really resonated with me and the way that I believe that education is heading. 

One point stated that Australian students have one of the highest technology adoption rates in the world. Students in Australia are having access to a great range of emerging technologies and that is excellent news, especially from an ICT Educator’s point of view. Students in our classes are becoming proficient with digital tools that are now industry standard and that has quality benefits in the short to medium term. 

But that good news was tempered by the news that our literacy and numeracy skills (tested by NAPLAN and PISA) are steadily decreasing in conjunction with increasing technology adoption. Not good news at all. 

And this point was then brought home with some statistics regarding the fall in preschooler dexterity levels, especially in regards to gripping and using basic writing tools like pencils and pens. Kindergarten teachers in both NSW and Queensland have stated that even though Early Stage 1 students can scroll,  pinch and zoom like teenagers,  an ever increasing proportion of them cannot quickly grasp the fine motor skills of holding a pencil and writing with it. 

Even more disturbing is the fact that more kindergarten students are starting school without even being exposed to the concept of writing (or even having any experience with a pencil or pen) as being a vitally important communication method as well as being an essential skill. This lack of experience in writing could set students back quite significantly if they are in a class with a greater proportion of literate students. 

After I had read the article a few more times for it to truly sink in, I wrote down a few questions that I wanted the answer to :

  1. What activities are the students using this technology for? Do the activities promote learning or just simulate it? 
  2. Have the staff been instructed on using the tech in the classroom for authentic purposes or just one-off lessons? 
  3. Have we dropped the ball when it comes to educating our students/children in the fine motor skills of writing? 
  4. Have schools been tricked into thinking that the more Technology the better?
  5. Is every school lucky enough to have a Lighthouse Teacher to help out? 
  6. Do schools have a genuine plan in place when it comes to longitudinal thinking in ICT Education? 

In the next few articles I am going to try to examine these questions in greater detail and try to find a way for the broader Education community to tackle the issues. These issues are not easily solvable but they do require some solid consideration due to their ever increasing complexity. 

Let’s give it a go! 

Ross Johnson  

Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert 

Adobe Education Leader 


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