In the Spring of 2012, every eighth grade student in the state of South Carolina took a technology proficiency assessment based on ISTE’s NETS standards. Only thirty-five percent of those students were identified as proficient (earning a score of seventy percent or higher). The results of this assessment show children are vastly deficient in technology proficiency; yet most children seem pretty comfortable with today’s digital tools. Additionally, adults seem fairly confident in the ability of children to master technology as well. Our students can bypass protective filters and turn screens sideways or upside down when a teacher isn’t looking, but that doesn’t mean they know how to effectively use emerging technologies to enhance their learning environment.
Perhaps society thinks kids are better with technology than they truly are because digital age tools work well with their preferred methods of learning. Students tend to prefer trial and error over step-by-step instructions – they learn by playing in hands-on kinesthetic ways. Perhaps, kids don’t know everything because they simply know they don’t have to. They have come to the realization that the answer to just about any question they have or are likely to be asked is only a Google search away.
A quick perusal of YouTube will clearly show kids are interested in creating their own content. The challenge for teachers becomes harnessing that desire to create while simultaneously designing educational experiences that allow academic progress to be made. Some of the difficulty in encouraging students to play with a purpose arises from the simple fact that often students and teachers don’t speak the same language in regard to technology. Students are click-happy because it fits their trial and error learning style, yet many of their teachers are afraid to haphazardly click buttons, perhaps out of the fear of inadvertently launching a global war. But to make technology truly useful in academic settings, our schools have to embrace these digital tools and implement them in ways that foster positive learning experiences.
Sixty-five percent of eighth grade students in South Carolina are failing in technology proficiency. With the coming implementation of the Common Core State Standards and its focus on content creation within the academic curriculum, technology proficiency will no longer be optional. A lack of digital age skills could have a serious effect on standardized assessment performance. But beyond Common Core, there are plenty of reasons to embrace the acquisition of technological skills in our students. Technology is a deeply rooted part of our culture and society. It’s not a new age fad, that will simply fade away over time. It’s here to stay and it will only continue to evolve in complexity. For our students, many opportunities in their future rely on their ability to perform digital tasks proficiently. Children aren’t going to ask for professional development on technology, so as educators, we must make interaction with technology an inherent part of the learning process.