Technology, millennials and the net generation: part two

| August 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

By J Liebenberg

Tablets have been with us since about 2010 with the introduction of the iPad, and the release of the first Android tablets soon after that.

Since then, millions of these devices have been sold worldwide. As with preceding technologies, the adoption of tablets in schools has varied from country to country. In South Africa, there has been limited adoption of tablets in schools so far, and even where tablets have been introduced into schools, it has often been in a manner that is at odds with their nature as personal devices (i.e. tablet trolleys being pushed from class to class). It seems that many schools and educators still consider our schools to be in a ‘tablet phase’ – similar to the ‘interactive whiteboard phase’, the ‘laptop phase’, the ‘clicker phase’ and the ‘personal digital assistant (PDA) phase’ – all of which came and went. So the thinking seems to be that one merely has to hold out long enough and this phase, too, will pass.

Tablets here to stay

However, this kind of thinking is flawed. With the advent of mobile devices, we have entered an era of unprecedented immersion in technology, and tablets (and ‘phablets’ – phones with large display screens) will form a key driver in this process. Already there have been over 1 billion Android devices activated and over 700 million IOS devices (Apple’s proprietary mobile operating system (OS) for its handheld devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) sold.1Whereas it was impossible to imagine a world where everyone has a PC, it now seems inevitable that in the nottoo- distant future, the majority of learners will have access to mobile devices with smart capabilities, such as tablets, phablets or smartphones.

Against this background, it is highly unlikely that the ‘tablet phase’ will pass. On the contrary, the advent of tablets provides schools and educators with unprecedented possibilities to provide teaching and learning experiences to learners in a way that is familiar to their own world – without abandoning tried and proven educational practices. But for this to happen, schools first need to realise that these kinds of devices are here to stay. They do not represent just another phase that will pass. Instead, they provide a unique opportunity – an opportunity to marry the best of traditional teaching with the best that 21st century personalised devices have to offer. Once we realise this, then we can design education strategies in keeping with the times, which will prepare learners for a digital world and its uncertainties, and which will be rooted in sound educational practices. But this can only happen if one acknowledges the elephant in the room. Technology is no longer ‘out there’ – it has come into our classrooms. It is doing so every day when the millennial and net generation enter our classes.

Reference:
1. See, for example: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/mobilephones/10555845/Android-device-sales-to-top-one-billion-in-2014.html and http://www.asymco.com/2013/11/25/one-billion-ios-devices/.

Category: Spring 2014

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