If you were sitting your exams in the UK back in 1977, you were among the last of a now extinct branch of the human race. 1977 was the final year during which the only equipment you could take into a maths exam was a slide rule. In 1978 and to some public outcry, lucky students were allowed to use a calculator and so ushered in the digital age in education.
From those small beginnings, the digital age has mushroomed to encompass all aspects of life both in the home and at school. In some parts of the USA and in South Korea, announcements have been made that present a timeline for the complete digitisation of the education curriculum. There are arguments for and against this, and in the UK in 2012, a £2 million programme was announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove, to research the use of innovative technology within education and ensure that in the future, young people are able to access and take full advantage of, the opportunities presented by the digital world.
High speed internet access has completely transformed the way we live and the way we access information both in the home and at school. The effect that this has on parenting is that often the knowledge a child accumulates during a few short years outstrips that of their parents when it comes to operating within the digital arena. It is not uncommon for a child aged 2-3 to be able to navigate to a web page, select some sort of application; for example a YouTube video, play the application and then close down the web page or even navigate to another. Not just understanding the latest technology advances but also having the means to make that technology available in the home is a constant battle that parents face.
The digital age does present the potential for issues of inequality in terms of the technology available to children under different Education Authorities and also within their own homes. This may well impact on educational attainment, and is likely to be the case until the UK achieves its stated aim of making high-speed internet available to every home in the country, as well as adopting and funding universal standards for digital education provision.
There are of course, many advantages to adopting a digital curriculum. The main benefit by far is the opportunity afforded to pool resources and cut on-going costs. A digital resource is much cheaper to produce, lasts longer and is easier to share than a physical one. It also provides a level of continuity in terms of being able to stream and forward digital resources into the home and make them available outside of the school. In this way, parent involvement in the education of children can be actively encouraged and facilitated at little or no additional cost to the educating body.
Not only pupils, but parents too, are now beginning to expect to be able to access information and connect to people and resources where and when necessary. There are many online resources available already including online lessons at sites such as o2 learn and Teacher Tube and a variety of other resources within online communities or uploaded by teachers and other experts. Other innovations include educational games for all ages and interactive learning software that can adapt and respond to different learning needs and levels. Parents will need to be aware of all of the rich media available out there to assist them in their educational involvement with their children.
We are not just on the brink of, but taking our first faltering footsteps into a whole new world that is going to revolutionist education in much the same way as most of the main industries have already transformed themselves into something unrecognizable from what they were even 10 years ago. Digital Parenting and education in the modern age is changing forever whether we like it or not, and we all need to be on that train. This is the message that must go out to prepare parents and teachers for what is to come.