By: Mubarak Abdessalami
In most cases, third world education systems barrenness links back to years ago when the fact that the medley of creating and using the progress was almost inoperable because they lack the means. Technology, which is the activator of progress nowadays, has yet too long to be part of the school programs. Modern classes extend from the traditional teaching methods, tools and curricula to the vast dominion of the cyberspace. Ironically some teachers, in this digital multimedia epoch, endeavor to give lessons forcing the chalk and the blackboard to make miracles and their students, who use different digital gadgets all the time, still must do with the pen and copybooks. Unlike these, some other teachers and students in developed countries are already engaged in a completely new education paradigm; a sophisticated type of classes using the appropriate jargon and material for this era, namely computers, thin and fat clients, laptops, blade PC, Internet, servers, information processing software, wikis, blogs, podcasts, ICT etc. Some even use distant learning and video conferencing. It is because they are actually 'connected'. Whose fault is it?! Is it always Voltaire's?!
Meanwhile the underdeveloped countries, which must try hard to cope with this metamorphose of education worldwide, are still arguing if the use of the computer wouldn't spoil the students' ethics and make them lazy and sick. On the whole, this generation looks "lazy" be it with or without the influence of the modern technology; however it is more suitable and advantageous for us to see them "lazy" depending on a well manipulated outside assistant like information technology than to be "lazy" without any dependable knowledge fostering tool. Who is actually resisting change?!!! By the way, Laziness is relative by itself.
Laziness can be taught as anything else but indirectly in case we, teachers should be unwilling to take advantage of information and communication technology, or else if we should miss the right tools for the right momentum. In other words, laziness is caused by the tearing apart situation in which the modern students are stuck. They endure alienation vis-à-vis their schools. Those schools do not reflect the way these kids live. Outside school borders the students could have access to different multimedia such as satellite TV with its diverse channels, mobile phones with all their various options: themes, images, video, camera, games and so on. They also have access to a wide range of information via Internet and could serf the vast world of websites and social communities which provides a lot of rapidly increasing interactive programs the least of which are games and instant messages. Whereas the school is still sticking to its old fashioned habits that breed pestilent laziness. Why don't we at least guide these students to a rational use of this flood of information coming from reliable and non-reliable sources? Laziness thus stems from the fact these students are only a click far from any information they need. Instantaneous and effortless are the first requirements of this generation. That's why our old curricula (form and content) are hard for them to absorb and digest.
Once again, computing is no longer a privilege or a luxury; it is rather a must nowadays. In an ever-changing dynamic gloomy economic sphere, technology is surely the right tool for the right momentum. It is the torch our students need to lighten their ways through. It is no use reminding you that illiteracy is, for the time being, defined as "the inability to use the modern technology effectively for a purpose." It is actually a handicap not to know how and why to make use of a computer. Therefore, involving technology in education is more than an urgent necessity; it is a matter of life or death, so to speak. We don't have options. We are forced to plunge into it despite the fact that we are lagging behind. No worry! We'll learn while we practise. If we wait until we are ready, we'll never be ready for anything at all. Actually this form of information technology we are used to is heading for being outdated soon and when people in other parts of the world plant chips everywhere and interact with the machine from afar, we'll be referred to as just primitive people trying to use "then-outdated" tools to process information. We'll be very slow and we'll be jerks.
It is globally agreed upon that the new vogue for most edification designers is competency and benchmark. These terms are somehow tightly connected to technology and labour market needs. The use of the computer for processing information and activating the learners' background knowledge is meant to allow the students to gain more skills and eventually be competent and competitive for existent jobs or the ones yet to be created. In the modern classroom the focus is now shifting from just teaching the learners new things to making them observe, analyse, reach conclusions, take decisions, solve problems, and be effective initiators and project planners; in a world, to be constructive. It is more a question of providing and processing data than just receiving and consuming information. In short, there is no competency based learning without an orientation towards technological based skills. It is a vital and a crucial element in the making of future independent, competent and inventive adults. Technology thus becomes a tool for assistance to think right and gain time and effort. Without the computers we'll soon be run out of time and keep panting far back behind.
The byte, kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, terabyte, petabyte, exabyte, zettabyte, yottabyte, kibibyte, mebibyte, gibibyte, tebibyte, pebibyte, exbibyte, zebibyte, yobibyte ... Waw, what a jargon!!! These are features of the system of units approved by the economic and scientific corpse worldwide. Are we really fit for this sort of jargon? Can our students, despite all the things we teach them, develop a plan for a given software tool be it Word, Excel, PowerPoint, publisher or what else? Where do we stand from distance education and teleconferencing? This is the modern language of communication. To what extent are our education systems familiar and compatible with this language? In a word, does all this really matter for us? Ian Jukes said, while talking about kids today, that "the brain is creating new thinking patterns" that didn't exist before the digital era.
If we actually dare talk about developing a modern educational paradigm, we should first surmount our "techno-phobia" and get rid of our old-fashioned conception of education by providing the digital tools necessary to set up a reliable self-developing system confidently. The most important thing in this context; however, is to think about the technology medium susceptible to implement the benchmark or competency based programs to make our students capable of understanding and interacting with the world they belong to. Without providing them with the right and the most appropriate tools to process and assess their competencies, we are just wasting time and effort. Let's simply design a system that allows our students to progressively move onwards and live here and now at any period of their future lives. Education metamorphose has always been taking place but in this millennium, the transformation is immense and it gets more rapid and more complicated due to the advance in the fields of digital world. If we can't cope with it, we'll eventually be discarded from the list of the participants in the making of modern history.
Let's not think of technology as harmful until we try it first. Redressing is always easier after trail.
21st Century Learning