When I was in high school, crazes were all around physical odds and sods.
Mostly plastic trashy things like yo-yos and these weird sticks. It was a great time when I could show off my truest talents. But eventually, in high school, the coolest, latest trend became having a mobile phone.
Nothing was ever the same. Every class we had was disrupted as we were sending our crushes secret texts for 25 cents a pop under the desk and topping each other’s high score on snake.
How things have changed in not much time. More recently, Fortnite, a super popular video game, has released on mobile phones. With some teachers and students going as far to say it’s destroying schools as students are so distracted. It’s at the point where one school in the UK had to send communications out to parents, asking them to ban the game as it was causing so much disruption in class.
— Coach Fisher (@FZN_Fisher) March 21, 2018
The game is all in good fun and there’s nothing I love more than students having a great time. But it’s plain to see how in this particular case the game has garnered a pretty negative reputation among teachers. It’s easy to hate on Fortnite for crashing the WiFi at your school and causing distraction in the classroom, but you have to admit the way that young people around the globe can rally around something new, innovative and fun is amazing. While trends like Fortnite will continue to come and go, there’s always been a consistent desire with young people to embrace what’s new.
Students are always embracing new ways to learn. Smartphones and laptops have been influencing our education for a little while now. Since then, the education space has seen quite a widespread adoption of the use of tablets in classrooms. Although, you might not be aware of this if you graduated a scary amount of years ago like me. The influence of tablets in the education space is now at the point where even Apple have now released a new iPad marketed directly to students as an education tool.
It can have it’s downsides though. Recently I caught up with a mate who makes a crust as a teacher, who had some pretty jaw dropping things to say on the prevalence of this shift throughout schools and the influence that has on students. They told me in their experience the differences between students from schools where they only learn on tablets compared to those that don’t is so pronounced when they come together in the one classroom. My friend said they can always tell which kind of school a student has been to after just a few minutes of watching them use other computers. In their experience students who are used to the tablet way of life can struggle when things start acting up and they are unable to troubleshoot issues on laptops and computers. While there’s no doubt they’ve got digital skills, when they’ve been using one seamless device for so long, problem solving on another is a whole new thing. And who could blame them? If you’ve been using a tablet since you started school, you’re extremely familiar with that simple interface. If a tablet stops working, the most troubleshooting you’ve ever really had to do is turn it off and on again.
With this in mind, it seems that perhaps if you attend a tablet-based school, you might miss out on some problem solving and digital literacy skills. I’m not talking about advanced skills like coding either, I’m talking about things like basic computer literacy skills that have become a requirement in practically every industry. From mechanics to PR, at this point in time you’ll need to know how to work all kinds of digital technology. And demand for digital literacy is on the rise, in our recent report, we discovered demand for digital skills has already gone up by more than 200% in the past three years.
I don’t think anyone is saying incorporating tablets into school systems is a flat out bad thing, but there are considerations to be made about what happens when you’re used to the tech always working well. Speaking from experience, when you enter the workforce, there’s a shockingly large amount of problem solving and technical troubleshooting to be done. And for the majority of the time you’re expected to know how to do it yourself.
So maybe what I’m saying is that if you’re going to a school or uni where the tech isn’t always doing what it’s supposed to, then you’re learning valuable skills. And that when tech gets so good that it’s seamlessly integrated with our lives there’s a hidden cost to that convenience.
But perhaps, we should also be thinking about ways we can leverage this clear enthusiasm for tech and what it can do (as evidenced by the rise of tablet-based classrooms and the huge take up of Fortnite) to learn the skills we can use elsewhere.
Considering how ready young people are to embrace new technology like we’ve seen with Fortnite, there’s massive potential for whatever the next craze is to contribute to the education of the students. Maybe the next big thing in tech will require students to have a solid grasp of coding, or a phone you build yourself. Anything is possible when the enthusiasm of young people is behind something new.