And How to Deal with a Curriculum No Longer Designed for our Students
Globally, many of the schools are currently implementing an educational system that is slowly becoming obsolete. Colleges and universities still use a curriculum structure that is no longer designed explicitly for 21st-century learners. At this rate, the decline in the quality of education could very well be due to the detrimental mismatch between the current curriculum and the present generation of learners who have experienced radical changes for the past couple of decades.
Learners have changed radically on the onset of the Digital Era, which began in 1980. It’s not just about the incremental changes of slang, clothes, and style that can be observed similarly across previous generations of students. It’s a significant discontinuity, creating a learning gap between the current educational system and the students.
Dealing with Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants
According to Prensky (2001), Digital Immigrants were born before the Digital Era and later adopted new technology. Digital Natives are people who were born on or after the year 1980. It’s not the age difference between natives and immigrants currently creating the learning gap, but it’s essentially the skills disparity between the two in using technology.
Since most educators in colleges and universities are categorized as Digital Immigrants, the curriculum that is currently being implemented was also designed specifically by said immigrants. The educational system was designed specifically for the previous generations. Thus, it’s a curriculum structure that can no longer effectively teach today’s students, the majority of whom are Digital Natives.
Digital Natives are often used to the immediate access and receipt of information. They also prefer multitasking and parallel processing compared to spending time doing one task at a time. Other than that, natives also process graphics faster than text and are more inclined to choose games over ‘serious’ work. Most Digital Immigrants, on the other hand, often think of learning as separate from ‘fun’ and that students cannot learn successfully while multitasking.
Modifying the Educational System with Radically Changing Learners in Mind
Today’s educators need to learn how to effectively communicate in the language and style of the Digital Natives because the latter are their students both in the traditional classroom setting and in the virtual teaching and training rooms. It does not mean that the essence of what’s essential (learning) and good thinking skills should be forgotten, but it does indicate that today’s curriculum should be modified to match the digital native learners’ skills.
Instead of teaching courses with lessons and labels in the traditional pedagogical language, a series of graded tasks with embedded skills and competencies could be adopted. It may not be easy to eliminate the academic language, but the overall results could be all worth the additional time and effort initially needed to modify the curriculum. A perfect example would be the Monkey Wrench game development, which is widely used by engineering students to learn the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software.
At first, the developers, who fully intended to create a digital native-friendly application, had trouble integrating the content created by the Professors in the university. The 5–10-minute movies, which included the key concepts, were cut into 30-second clips. The tasks which were designed to be taken in order were changed to allow students random access. And instead of written instructions and the use of a slow academic pace, computer movies were utilized with speed and urgency in mind.
Due to the considerable mind-shift necessary to create a brilliant and effective program, it took twice as long for the staff and the professors to finish the work than initially anticipated. But because of its unexpected effectivity, the new ‘Digital Native’ approach has become the preferred teaching model.
Re-inventing the curriculum using these Digital Native methodologies could be the change that the current educational system needs. It could help educators and curriculum developers bridge the learning gap between the curriculum structure and learners to secure the future of education.