Preparing for the digital future of education

The world is changing rapidly as digital technology affects every aspect of our society. From work to leisure, digital tech is transforming the way we live, and this applies equally to education, where the way that our children learn is undergoing a revolution.

Whether your child is studying at a local high school or attending a prestigious international school in Singapore, they will increasingly have access to new technology as part of their daily study routine. All over the world, laptops, tablets, smartphones and other digital devices have become as familiar in classrooms as chalkboards were to previous generations, and as the pace of technological change in schools picks up, the way in which children interact and learn in classroom environments will continue to evolve.

However, digital technology is not just influencing the way that children learn. The skills to operate digital technology are increasingly been taught as an integral part of the curriculum, and this trend is likely to continue as technology manipulation takes on an ever more important role in education. The abilities to manipulate computer code and to work with robots are being taught to children at an early stage, along with other important skills such as problem-solving.

As workforces change, employers are increasingly demanding that applicants have a range of digital skills, and this demand for technologically adept young people is having a dramatic effect on our education systems, though it inevitably presents challenges, not just for children and teachers but also for policymakers in the education sphere.

The pace of technological change is such that it is difficult to accurately predict what the working landscape will look like in ten years’ time, let alone 20. Digital skill requirements, particularly in the area of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, are likely to change out of all recognition during the next couple of decades.

One example of how digital change can outstrip education planning is in the area of coding. Over the last few years, educational establishments around the world have been encouraging children to develop coding skills, but as digital technology evolves to the stage where devices and machines will be able to write their own code, specific programming skills may become less relevant than the ability to think critically and solve problems.  

Modern approaches to digital learning will therefore increasingly focus on equipping students with the best range of skills to enable them to adapt and thrive in a fast-changing digitally transformative world. This means helping them to learn not just digital literacy but also the skills required to collaborate with others and take a creative approach. That will enable them to succeed whatever the future holds for the workplace or for society.

The implications for teachers and parents are profound. It is no longer enough to equip children for the digital future by teaching them basic programming skills. A comprehensive digital education is as much about the skills they learn while coding than it is about the specific technical aspects of programming itself.

As the digital revolution gathers pace, there could be even more dramatic changes to the way children learn than we have witnessed in the last decade. In the near future, it is not hard to envisage classrooms equipped with wireless technologies, remotely useable routers and switches, and a range of collaboration tools, adding up to an “intelligent” learning environment in which students can work together to create real products.

In such a digitally enhanced environment, creation could also happen in different venues besides the classroom, and teachers who have access to customizable learning platforms and cloud technology could enable their students to learn at home, while they also interact and collaborate with other teachers all around the world, sharing best practices and developing new ideas and teaching skills for the benefit of their students.

The digital transformation of our societies has been described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and it is clear that ever more advanced technology will drive nearly all aspects of human life. Remarkably, research conducted by the World Economic Forum estimated that nearly two-thirds of children currently entering primary school will eventually find themselves working in roles that do not yet exist.  

By the end of the current decade, some estimates put the number of new digitized jobs at around 1.5 million across the globe, while many organizations currently have an IT skills shortage. Teachers and parents must adapt quickly in order to prepare children for the digital economy, and to give them the best chance of thriving in the new world.