Hooked to be connected!

by Lynda Hawe
Communications Officer, Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), Directorate for Education OECD

Concerned parents are becoming more and more anxious as they watch their bright children getting completely absorbed by and attached to new mobile devices.  Young people’s attachment to digital media and connectivity will shortly reach a level of almost universal saturation. In some OECD countries, more than 95% of 15-year-olds use an internet connected computer daily while at home. How many of us have experienced frustration while trying to get kids to actually listen, as their eyes remain glossily glued to their favourite pet gadget?  So just how worried should we really be? Well, it still remains difficult to clearly identify the risks or rewards of such behaviour, especially in relation to long-term learning and brain functions.  But first, let’s be reassured – it’s not all bad news!

The OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) has just released an inspiring new publication called Connected Minds: Technology and Today’s Learners, authored by Francesc Pedró. This book has wisely researched technology in relation to emerging issues for education.  Particularly, given that digital media and connectedness are an essential part of the lives of today’s learners, schools and teachers must now cope with the new responsibilities in relation to these skills.  This explorative book tackles the issue and helps to contribute to filling the knowledge gap.

Frankly, it’s not about the technology, but it’s all about connectedness. Connectedness, which is the capacity to benefit from connectivity for personal, social, work or economic purposes, is having an impact on all areas of human activity. Consequently, devices and gadgets are less important than the ability to be connected and seizing the opportunities that connectedness offers. Education is expected to play an important role in this transformation as it can equip individuals with the required skills for harnessing the opportunities that the knowledge economy and society offers.

In particular, teachers need to be well prepared in terms of the potential pedagogical benefits of new technologies. Challenges for schools and teachers are to better integrate the new digital media and the resulting innovative social practices into the daily experience of schooling.  With the objective to help learners to make the most out of connectedness, while enabling teachers to improve their skills. In addition, teachers should simultaneously pay attention to the different needs of learners and provide increased support to those who come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.

It is very reassuring to discover that Mobile Learning is emerging as one of the solutions to the challenges faced by education. As described in UNESCO’s Mobile Learning project, it offers unique characteristics in comparison to conventional e-learning: personal, portable, collaborative, interactive, contextual and situated.  As well as the fact that it highlights “just-in-time-learning”, since instruction can be delivered anywhere and at anytime.

Nobody can predict what new technologies may bring, or how the teaching and learning experience in education will evolve over the next decade.  So in the meantime, let’s just stay aware of the learning opportunities, while keeping a caring eye on the gadget screens as well as a little clock beside the video-games, see Setting Computer Limits Tips.   Of course, not with the intention to deprive youngsters of all the fun, but just to ensure that the final rewards will fully outweigh any eventual risks.

OECD work on New Millenium Learners
Activities: Centre for Eduational Research and Innovation (CERI)
Photo Credit: © Eric Audras/Onoky/Corbis

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