Preparing Students for TODAY

Is technology the solution?

How do we go about preparing students for the future?

How about starting preparing them for TODAY?!

Educating our children for today

to be successful citizens of this world and the one to come.

by Yanina Jimenez

 

Phrases like this are ringing on the field of education in the United States and the world lately, “Ensuring that today’s students have the education and training to meet future career demands is critical to the economic and social well-being of individuals, cities, and the nation as a whole” (Perna, 2016). Educators, policy makers, governors, administrators, and many other entities are pushing toward this one goal: to prepare students for career and college, to prepare students for tomorrow. Even the Common Core State Standards have this slogan.

I wonder if we are all too worried about the future that we forget to prepare our students for today. Frankly speaking, we really don’t know how tomorrow will look like. Why then, not to prepare our students for today’s world? Why not giving them the principles that will make them life-long learners and the ability to use knowledge to be successful citizens today? If we empower our children with the ability to use the knowledge and skills they acquire in their classrooms today, they will be better off for today and they future!

We know what this millennium looks like. In Curriculum for the New Millennium, Hay L. and Roberts A. (2001) talk about the most significant trends that have emerged in our era: technology is powerful, convenient, and complex; the world will continue to become more globally interdependent; our society demands an even more convenient lifestyle, expecting all institutions to deliver their services with ease and speed; the number, frequency, and complexity of values questions confronting educators is increasing dramatically. All these trends are having consequences on the curriculum and its delivery.

Saavedra (2012) reflects on the needs that students have today, on the 21st century, because of globalization and economic necessities. She goes one by saying that interconnectedness our global economy, ecosystem, and political networks require that students learn to communicate, collaborate, and problem solve with people worldwide. Employers demand fewer people with basic skills sets and more people with complex thinking and communication skills. According to Saavedra, students need seven survival skills which are:

  • critical thinking and problem solving;
  • collaboration and leadership;
  • agility and adaptability,
  • initiative and entrepreneurialism;
  • accessing and analyzing information;
  • and curiosity and imagination.

These abilities are also commonly referred to as higher-order thinking skills, deeper learning outcomes, and complex thinking and communication skills. Hoomes (2013) affirms that the solution to prepare students for today is the ability to solve problems, thus students are ready for the world community.

What is the solution?

Technology is presented by leading magazines, people in power, policy making, big companies, and countless teachers and administrators as the solution to the demanding needs of our students in this era. Though technology is a great instrument used in instruction and collaborative projects among other learning experiences, there are indeed negative effects of using technology in today’s classroom. Klaus (2015) makes a strong statement, “At times, technology can hinder the learning process.”

Classroom teachers are using technology in the classroom more frequently than ever before. According to the National School Boards Association, students who are exposed to a high volume of technology perform as well as expected on standardized test, however technology can potentially do students a disservice if used inappropriately. When teaching using technology, instructors must be aware of the potential hindrances technology can bring to the learning process. Some negative effects of technology in today’s classroom are that it can take away valuable learning time, it can be overused, and it can also turn educational experiences into games for students. Technology should be used to supplement the classroom curriculum, but should not be used as the sole source of learning.

“Children become increasingly unhappy the longer they spend playing computer games and accessing the internet, according to research” says Paton (2012). Young people exposed to modern technology for more than four hours a day are less likely to display high levels of “wellbeing” than those limiting access to less than 60 minutes, it emerged. There are negative effects for young people exposed for technology for too long during the normal school day. Young people’s brains were failing to develop properly after being overexposed to the cyber world at an early age.

Although Gates (2010) assures that technology is needed in all aspects of education he confesses that technology itself is not the answer to all the issues we face in our efforts to live up to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are significant social, cultural and institutional challenges that must be overcome as well. Technology must be implemented as part of a thoughtful, holistic approach to education transformation that includes teacher training, relevant curricula, parental involvement and programs for children that fill unmet needs for basics like nutrition and health care.

If technology is not the solution, then what it is?

Once upon a time, educators might have said to their students, “If you’ll pay close attention to what I’m going to teach you, you’ll learn everything you need to know for a successful life.” It’s doubtful that this message was ever entirely true, but it’s certainly not true today. “We don’t know all the information that today’s students will need or all the answers to the questions they will face. Indeed, increasingly, we don’t even know the questions” (Treffinger, 2008).

These realities mean that we must empower students to become creative thinkers, critical thinkers, and problem solvers—people who are continually learning and who can apply their new knowledge to complex, novel, open-ended challenges; people who will proceed confidently and competently into the new horizons of life and work.

Students who are competent in not only the basics of content areas but also the basics of productive and creative thinking will be lifelong learners, knowledge creators, and problem solvers who can live and work effectively in a world of constant change. Walker (2012) says that preparing students for today’s world demands that education be delivered in a vastly different manner than what we see today in U.S. schools. She also affirms that students need: Cognitive skills: critical thinking and analysis; Interpersonal skills: teamwork and communication; and Intrapersonal skills: resiliency, reflection and contentiousness. Lange (2014) adds to the list of things students need to be able to do to be ready for today’s world that is: critical thinking demonstrated through inquiry, questioning, problem solving, and collaboration.

How do we promote lifelong learners, knowledge creators, and problem solvers?

Yi (2015) questions an important aspect of critical thinking. “How does one teach someone to think? Learning how to think, rather than just what to think, requires practice. This is where educators play such a crucial role. Critical thinking is a skill that moves beyond memorization and regurgitation.” In order to gain competency, students must be exposed to the world of ideas and taught to critically engage them. We want to protect our students from ideas that might be harmful to their developing faith, but this also leaves them unprepared to deal with the real world when they move beyond the perceived safety of the classroom. Another reason for our underappreciation of philosophy is the advice we have received from Mrs. White, who emphasized exposing students to the Bible and nature and was critical of education focused solely on an exposure to human ideas. Teachers may feel unqualified to teach philosophy or think it should be relegated to postsecondary education. However, critical thinking is a skill that should be acquired much earlier than in college (much like reading and math) and can be learned when modeled by teachers who have dared to go beyond reflecting to thinking carefully and deeply about the issues broached in philosophy.

Our students will be better off for today when we, as educators, promote lifelong learners, knowledge creators, and problem solvers, in the context of eternity. Wesley (2012), reminds us that as educators we need to have “an eternal orientation” in all we do, “every decision, every action in this life has eternal consequences.” (1 Timothy 6:12).

 

References

Bertoni, S. (2010). Bill Gates and techonology in education. Forbes.

Hoomes, E. W. (2013). Future problem solving: preparing students for a world community. The Kappan.

John Wesley Taylor V, P. D., Ed.D. (2012). A biblical foundations for integrating faith and learning. Journal of Adventist Education.

Klaus, J. (2015). Negative effects of using technology in today’s classroom. Demand Media.

Lange, S. (2014). Strategies to promote critical thinking in the elementary classroom. Next Generation, 1(5).

LeRoy Hay, A. R. (2001). Curriculum for the New Millennium. Educational Leadership.

Paton, G. (2012). Overexposure to technology ‘makes children miserable’. Daily Telegraph.

Perna, L. (2016). Preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs in metropolitan America. City in the Twenty-First Century.

Saavedra, A. R. (2012). Learning 21st-century skills requires 21st-century teaching. The Kappan.

Sherrelle Walker, M. A. (2012 ). Scientific Learning.

Treffinger, D. J. (2008). Preparing Creative and Critical Thinkers. Educational Leadership, 65.

Zane Yi, P. D. (2015). Thinkers or reflectors? Young Adult Retention, Philosophy and Adventist Education. Journal of Adventist Education.