Can 'digital visitors' teach 'digital residents' any new tricks?

'Visitors' and 'residents' is a way at looking at the way people connect with the internet. Visitors will pop online to research something then go back to real life, but residents will spend most of their day connected.

There tends to be an age distinction to this, with residents likely to be younger. Does this mean that today’s students cannot learn the things that yesterday’s tutors teach?

Sarah Hehir is a creative writing, English and drama teacher who has taught children and young people in primary and secondary schools and youth groups, and older people in prisons for over 20 years. Sam Froudist is a recently qualified teacher who initially trained in Australia, now working in a primary school. Both are based in Kent, UK.

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We asked Sarah and Sam about their experiences of teaching technology-literate pupils; Sarah says; "In one primary school I have a radio recording studio and we post our finished shows on the school Twitter feed weekly through SoundCloud. We have done projects that link other schools through radio posted online and made dramas with the local community. We are planning to extend this with a Media Hub that will actively encourage the children to do research and make links across the world. But in the other school I teach in regularly, there is no smart board in my room (and I teach in the corridor for one session!) so I use no technology at all!"

Sarah also says that; "There is more use of technology at the front of the classroom than when I was at school, but surprisingly little advancement at primary school level in each child regularly using technology, due to budget constraints. Although I think it also depends a lot on how much tech support or knowledge the teachers have within the school which can vary enormously."

Read: How is tech changing the way younger generations communicate

Children today are likely to be much more computer literate from an early age than their teachers. In a recent survey of children aged eight to 16, more than half said they can blog, 36 per cent can code, 38 per cent can build apps and 23 per cent can build websites; so how does that affect a teacher’s relationship with the student? Sam says; "Digital Literacy is a compulsory part of our National Curriculum, so teachers are now teaching computing lessons in class, as well as incorporating it across other areas of the curriculum. It obviously works better when students are encouraged to use technology at home, or perhaps more commonly come from a family that can afford technology at home. In my experience, the more tech savvy parents are, the more savvy the children are.

"I am pretty computer literate, so I use technology a lot in my teaching, and can work 'on the hoof' if certain aspects don't work, whereas I know tech issues have thrown some of my colleagues off. What has made a big difference is the ability to use technology such as email or even classroom and behaviour management apps such as Class Dojo. It helps me to stay organised if I can email messages to parents; I have a continuous paper trail, and in this modern age, find that parents are more likely to respond to letters, emails and surveys if they can respond immediately on their phones."

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But does this mean that in lessons without technology children become bored?

Sarah says: "Lessons with or without technology need to be well paced and interesting, and stimulating. Kids love creative writing and drama as distinct subjects and as teaching tools. I think it's a myth that they can't concentrate on anything other than technology."

​Sam adds; "I don't think that you need technology to keep a class interested. However, they do really enjoy having tech in the classroom, whether that is watching a short film for comprehension rather than a written passage, or a video clip explaining fractions.

"I am very pro-technology, but not just for technology's sake. It has to make my life easier. You are stretched so thin as a teacher that there has to be an overwhelming benefit to try something new, otherwise you just don't have the time to experiment. I think it's easier for me as I am quite curious when it comes to tech, and have a solid foundation of knowledge to build upon, but I can imagine that it could be very intimidating for teachers who are not so comfortable with it."

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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