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January 15, 2013

New Millennium Learners

This text was initially published by Vitrine technologie-éducation under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 licence, before Eductive was launched.

Although they’ve been immersed in ICTs since their early childhood, have “digital natives” really acquired, through practice, the technical skills and general knowledge required for informed use of ICTs in school? Can acquiring these competencies contribute to academic success?

An OECD (Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation) study in 2006, repeated in South Korea in 2009, provides some answers to these current questions, while the job market expects to receive new, proactive employees who have mastered the entire gamut of cross-curricular competencies (learn to lean, demonstrate creativity, innovation and cooperation).
The report suggests a parallel between homo zapiens and their ancestors, homo sapiens:

  • Homo zapiens are connected, while their predecessors prefer to work alone
  • Homo zapiens work in a collaborative rather than competitive framework
  • They are comfortable multi-tasking and capable of non-linear learning
  • They count on images and icons to find their way around the screen, rather than on reading text
  • Finally, they learn by searching and externalizing, rather than by absorbing and internalizing

(According to the report, it seems that among young people, familiarity with technology does not necessarily mean an increase in learning performance, because learning performance depends on a vast set of factors. And adults assume young people have far more ICT skills than most of them actually have.)

Contrary to expectations, it is in individual use, rather than collaborative use, that ICTs seem to be most effective for learning among young people. That might be because computers have often been integrated into the school landscape without developing new teaching practices. While most classrooms have a computer today, the teacher is still far too often the one using it. What is the upshot? That the use of ICTs influences cognitive, affective and sociocultural competencies. As such, the report’s authors recommend including all these competencies in training programs and supporting their development with in-class activities. But where is the border between classroom learning with homework assignments and acquiring soft skills? Is it really the school’s role to foster the acquisition of the competencies and aptitudes required for their personal development, community and civic life and professional career? In other words, aren’t we overstepping the bounds of the school’s primary mission, perhaps even to the detriment of learning the fundamental disciplines?
References

More resources

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) – New Millennium Learners. OCDE, 2013. Web. 15 Jan. 2013.

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