It's time to engage the 'digital natives'

18th November 2011 at 00:00

Digital natives and digital immigrants - terms coined 10 years ago by American teacher-turned-writer Marc Prensky - crop up repeatedly in this week's issue, which has a special focus on ICT and new technologies. The natives are the children born in the digital era; the immigrants are the adults who have to adapt to an alien environment.

The trigger for this issue was Education Secretary Michael Russell's call for a halt to further investment in Glow, the national schools intranet, while the Scottish Government reviews its ICT strategy and decides on its next move. He wants to change the culture of ICT and attune it more closely with the use of technology in everyday life. So it seemed time for us, too, to take stock of what is happening in schools around Scotland and where ICT in education is going.

This week we have news reports on advances in literacy through IT (p5) and on cyberbullying (p7); News Focus on Glow and what came out of the Government's ICT summit (pp12-15); and a feature on the only school in Scotland to hold the ICT Mark for its use of technology in learning and teaching, and management and admin (pp18-21). We also see how barcodes, iPods and Wi-Fi are transforming outdoor learning, and how LiveCode, a simple programming language, is enthusing pupils to get creative and devise their own apps and games (p24).

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google Docs, whiteboards, Smartboards, iPads, pods, QR codes, Wi-Fi, smartphones, blogs, apps . The new vocabulary is vast and expanding; so too are the new routes to learning. What's more, they're fun for the young who thrive on the buzz of video games, social networks and mobiles; who speak, read and write on the move, and expect instant responses. These are the youngsters who, like the pupils from Stirling High who spoke out at the ICT summit, want to be allowed to use their own personal devices in school, rather than "old computers".

They are the digital natives who are used to the high-intensity engagement that video games bring. So, finally, we have a report on the ultimate school for them. Quest to Learn, in New York City, is the first game-based school in the world, where students learn through "gameful" activities from morning till night (p26). When you read gaming pioneer Jane McGonigal's description of the graduates she believes it will produce - creative problem-solvers, strong collaborators, and innovative thinkers - you can't help but think of the aims of Curriculum for Excellence.

A lot rides on the Government's review of its ICT strategy. If creativity, innovation and collaboration really are goals for Scotland's pupils, they need access to the technology that excites and engages them. Let's hope we can look back in another 10 years and laugh at the idea that they had to plead for it.

Gillian Macdonald, Editor,

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