Louise WheatcroftSenior Lecturer Louise Wheatcroft of the University’s School of Education says that policy makers should be looking to make more of an effort to recognise the importance of preparing teachers for the next generation of students: one that is both digitally literate and net-savvy.

Louise explained: “What we are beginning to see now is a gap appearing between the experiences of digital literacy that primary school children have outside of school and their experiences of technology in the classroom.

It was almost twenty years ago when education pioneer Seymour Papert commented that children have entered into a love affair with the computer. We cannot ignore the pace of digital technology. Increasingly, children and young people are becoming more proficient with technology than their parents.

Nearly every classroom I have taught in has an interactive whiteboard, and I have also found that laptops and tablet computers have begun to replace the class computer. It should come as no surprise then that our teachers will need relevant training to operate in this new teaching environment.

Many experts are now of the opinion that there is a generational divide between people who have grown up in a digital world and people who were born before the internet became commonplace. This generation of people born since the 1980s are now commonly referred to as ‘digital natives’.

One might assume that today’s young teachers are already ‘digital natives’ and are therefore already equipped with the digital literacy and skills needed to teach in the 21st century classroom. However, I would warn that it is unhelpful to make such assumptions.

Research shows that a significant number of young people actually have limited access to technology and limited skills and, even if they do, they are not transferring their personal experiences of digital literacy into their professional roles as teachers. There are a number of reasons for this, the primary one being that trainee teachers still need to develop the pedagogical understanding of how digital literacy skills can be taught effectively.

Ultimately, I think trainee teachers should be encouraged more to reflect on how literacy practices are changing and consider what skills pupils will need to develop in order to be more digitally literate. It is not necessarily about the digital tools themselves, but rather how they are used in the classroom.”

Louise Wheatcroft is a Senior Lecturer in Primary English at Birmingham City University.

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