Tuesday, January 15, 2013

21st century learning and the digital tsunami

The changes in education as a result of the digital tsunami cannot be underestimated – it is the largest, and arguably most important, transformation that will happen in New Zealand in our lifetime.  2,500 schools and 4,500 early childhood education (ECE) centres, nearly 100,000 registered teachers, 750,000 students at school and 190,000 at ECE centres, and more than four million stakeholders .

The Select Committee for Education and Science completed an inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy, and submitted the report to the House in December 2012  The text of the report gives some indications of the nature of the inquiry.  In this post, I use the top 10 most frequently used words in the report to illustrate some general themes relating to the future of education; my next post will discuss the key recommendations from the report. 

Education is about learning, but "learning" is not just what children do at school.  Learning happens everywhere, and learning happens for everyone - teachers, students, families and care givers.  Technology creates a platform of almost limitless opportunities for better learning . 

The focus of the inquiry was the impact of technology on schools; there was general agreement on the changes that are needed to the school environment - it needs to support flexible, adaptive and collaborative learning within the school and through connections with other schools. 

There were 90 written submissions to the inquiry, and 55 oral submissions; this involved a lot of listening to a wide range of well informed advice.  From this listening, there emerged a clear consensus - in the future, education will use innovation and collaboration to create a unique personalised learning experience for every child. 

It's not the technology that will make a difference, but the fact that all resources, whether used by or created by the student, are digital and reusable.  The technology will continue to change, so skills will be needed to ensure that the technology is continually put to best use. 

Universal access to digital tools is fundamental to a high quality education system - this includes device and internet access at school, at home and in the community, for all participants - learners, teachers, parents and caregivers. 

The voices of the students who made submissions to the inquiry were illuminating; they have grown  up in a digital world, where information and connections are instantly available, and they will drive future innovation. 

New Zealand
The digital tsunami is changing education in every country in the world; it is essential that New Zealand culture, language and values are at the core of our education system. No-one else will nurture these unique assets, and we have a responsibility to develop and maintain Maori and Pasifika content. 

21st Century
The changes in the first 13 years of the 21st century have been huge - for example, in 2000 there was no broadband, Gmail, Facebook, or iTunes.  Changes in technology will continue to accelerate over the remaining 87 years of the century; the shift to digital needs to be adaptive to continuous technology change. 

The teaching profession is at the front-line of responding to the challenges and opportunities of digital education.  Significantly increased investment is needed to ensure that our teachers have the skills and confidence to act as guides for future generations.

Disclosure:  I was engaged by the Select Committee as an expert advisor to the Inquiry.


  1. Hi Laurence - good thoughts.
    I wondered if there needs to be an emphasis on what and why we are equipping our students for?
    I believe that climate change, peak oil and financial uncertainties will be significant future scenarios. Even one of the above has the ability to alter life as we presently know it.
    Where do these scenarios fit into the digital tsunami?
    I also get worried about "increased investment" always equating to money - if anything the education dollar will shrink therefore sustainability of learning systems needs to be considered - the free online courses run by Wikieducator or MOOCs are ways of up-skilling and sharing ideas.
    Our present system of handing money to "advisory" organisations is also ineffective in shaping education - it seems the digital age has seen an increase of boys and their toys and girls with their gadgets rather than pedagogically driven education.

  2. Thanks Nate for the comments.

    Every New Zealander has an opinion on the question "what is education for". Unfortunately, the challenges of thinking about what our children will need in 50 years time are too difficult, so people fall back on what they remember of their education.

    As Ivan Illich says "School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is."

  3. It's not the technology that will make a difference, but the fact that all resources, whether used by or created by the student, are digital and reusable. The technology will continue to change, so skills will be needed to ensure that the technology is continually put to best use.

    Media Monitoring


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.