Creative learning in the Digital Age

Ever wondered why it is so challenging teaching children today? Children get bored easily these days and we cannot blame them when they are so used to being entertained most of the time with paid TV and digital games at home. So how do we as parents and teachers help motivate them to learn?

Here are some things to think about beforehand:

1. Times have changed – Take charge of your child’s learning!

This whole new generation of children live in a fast paced, visually-packed world of high-speed broadband, video streaming and YouTubes. And “Mr Google” is their indispensable friend who beckons at their fingertips. How do parents and teachers attract these children to learn in an environment that excites them? The “digital board” which can change color, copy and paste like the computer and have fun games to stimulate the minds, has replaced the blackboard in many advanced countries, but we are still using the chalk board in schools today. Computers are indispensable in our working lives but students still use pencil and paper for most part of their learning at school. And the computers (if the schools have them) are nicely locked up in the computer rooms. If they are not locked up, there will be probably 1001 rules of usage.

It is incomprehensible that in this Digital Age, children are told not to spend too much time at the computer! They are still being taught old knowledge and old skills suitable for the industrial age which is on the declining phase, but are not being taught the essential skills to face the Digital Age that is changing the way we live, learn and work. Schools are still replicating the factory-mode of churning out uniformed products to fill jobs. But the question is: will there be jobs for them when they graduate? Hundreds and  thousands of jobs are disappearing around the world on a daily basis. New ones are emerging at a rapid pace. Are students being equipped for new jobs that require new sets of skills? Are teachers equipped enough to equip the students towards that purpose? Can the skills take our children BEYOND the current Digital Age?

2. Individuality versus Conformity

Gone are the days when the individual seeks a job and sticks to it for life, to be taken care of by the employer, be it the government or the company. The individual did not have much say and is merely a part of a bigger body of workers, each doing his or her part to get the job done. Our schools are very much like that, still. Individuality counts less as compared to uniformity and conformity. This makes controlling them easier and more manageable. But at the expense of nurturing real talents and true thinkers!

In his book, “The New Normal” (MacNamee, Portfolio, 2004), Roger MacNamee writes, that “opportunities for success are plentiful. The trouble is, those opportunities are often different from the ones we are accustomed to. To exploit them, we have to think in new ways about ourselves and about the future. We have to get comfortable with change. We have to be self-confident. And we have to be prepared to step away from the crowd, understand how the situation relates to us, and act accordingly.”

Do our children know what they really want? Do parents and teachers help them actualize their dreams by charting road maps to reach their various destinations? I say “various” because there will be more than one in this age of rapid change where one day, a product is launched, and the next, a new improved version comes out! The speed of change is tremendous. Hence the speed to learn and master new skills will be an essential asset for anyone who wants to stay afloat in the sea of change and uncertainty.

3. Globalization – it’s a reality, not a myth!

But one thing is certain – globalization is here and it is here to stay! Globalization has pervaded every country in the world and those that resist it will only fall behind, economically, socially as well as politically. Is the topic even discussed at the school level? Are teachers aware of the powers and potentiality of embracing it? Is our country preparing her people in knowledge, skills and language proficiencies to face the highly competitive world out there? Or are we still keeping them under the “tempurungs” of false views and displaced patriotism?

Do we prepare students to think, to ponder, to question, and even to judge about what they encounter in their daily lives? Are they aware of what is happening in the country and outside the country, other than all the “subjects” they have to master to acquire all the “A’s” that they are trained to achieve from as early as the age of 5 or 6? Are our children allowed to exercise their creativity in their learning and playing time? Are teachers exercising their creativity in their teaching?

4. The gift of multiple options

Because the world has changed and is continually changing, so are the options for the young people today. No longer will there be only one path to go, or one career to pursue, or one course to study for. There will be many options available, many career paths to pursue, and many talents to be tapped. Parents, teachers and students need to think out of the box when it comes to preparing for future careers because there will be many new jobs being created by the time they graduate. What would endure them to the new careers are creativity in thinking and doing things in a new environment using new tools and skills. Children who struggle to learn in a highly structured environment will now be valued for their talents and creativity. There MUST be a different way to have these children learn so that their true potentials can emerge and be valued and recognized alongside their academically brilliant counterparts.

Are our schools ready to do that? Are parents and teachers prepared to make the change? The children definitely are! They have been ready for a change since they were born! Because they are born in the Digital Age, which is a turning point in history, akin to the invention of paper and the printed word, which transformed the world in more ways than one!

Are we transforming the way we educate our young?

We have no choice but to make a change. And the time is NOW!

Wai Leng & KV Soon

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