The face of education is constantly changing. Towards the end of 2011, many have seen a paradigm shift especially in the perception of a traditional classroom (Pegrum, 2009). As technology progresses, education needs to change in order to keep up with ongoing trends. Students’ attention spans are harder to retain and educators require new teaching methodologies to achieve necessary results. Therefore, this paper will explain the emergence of digital education in this new era. To do this, the first section of this paper will try to explain what digital education is. Next, this paper is also going to look at what constitutes as an online classroom and digital schooling. Last but not least, a list of pros and cons of digital education will also be provided in this paper.
What is digital education?
Digital education is the integration of ICT or Information and Communication Technology during the teaching and learning process (Lee, 2008). The role of a teacher is no longer viewed as an educator but rather, as the facilitator of learning (Pegrum, 2009). Students are not required to sit in class for hours listening to lectures. In fact, they do not even have to be present in the classroom. Digital education has made it possible for learning to happen from anywhere even at home (Lee, 2008). Besides that, the lines on geographical and cultural boundaries have also been blurred with the usage of Internet (Gibson & Baek, 2009). Teachers and students can utilize this platform by sharing and gaining knowledge from different parts of the world. Learning contents are not restricted just to the textbooks but it can be gathered from anywhere and instructional curriculum can traverse out from the syllabus (Gibson & Baek, 2009). Apart from that, digital education also allows the acquisition of information to be more interactive and hands on, pushing towards a more personalized learning experience (Thomas, 2011). Therefore, with digital education, a 21st century classroom is one that promotes collaboration among peers and cultivates life-long learning skills (Thomas, 2011).
What constitutes an online classroom and digital schooling?
An online classroom and digital schooling involve the implementation of a wireless Internet, an interactive whiteboard and digital content (Selwyn, 2011). Teachers and students do not need to be at the same place in order for the teaching and learning process to be carried out. This is because the actual building does not need to exist. Students can register at any school, colleges and universities that suit their interests. Distance and transportation is no longer the main concerns. Individuals who are working can also take this opportunity to advance themselves. Furthermore, the contents used in an online classroom and digital schooling should be attainable online (Selwyn, 2011). One can even download these contents by paying a small price. They are known as e-textbooks. Researches can also be done via an online library. On contrary belief, an online classroom and digital schooling is still led by an educator although, it does promote autonomous learning.
The advantages of digital education
One of the most prevalent advantages of digital education is the possibility of attaining education for students who cannot attend a traditional classroom setting (Barron, 2002). This is especially true for students living in rural or remote areas. It can be difficult to find a school, college and university nearby. This eliminates the need to commute from one place to another. Besides that, an online environment gives individuals with family and work responsibilities a chance to further their education. The flexibility to arrange their own schedules and ability to review classes which they have missed make digital education an ideal solution (Gibson & Baek, 2009). Not just that, it is believed that digital education can improve the dropout rates that are happening in schools, globally, at an alarming rate (Lee, 2008). Most students have confessed to playing truant because classes are deemed to be a bore. With multi-media and audio visual support, educators can make their lessons more interesting. Realistic simulation using appropriate technologies is a great way to capture students’ attention. This is important to create individuals who will contribute to the society and an ability to join the workforce. Furthermore, technology can also provide better teaching and learning outcomes for disabled students (Pegrum, 2009). A research has shown that dyslexic students response very well with the usage of computers. Current introduction of iPad into classrooms with dyslexic students have proven that they are more eager to learn and there is a prolonged duration in their attention span (Selwyn, 2011).
The disadvantages of digital education
One of the main concerns regarding digital education is dealing with isolation. Many people fear the lack of face to face interaction will interfere with students’ socialization skills (Duderstadt, Atkins, & Houweling, 2002). This may have an effect on their career growth in future. Since digital education requires the implementation of technology in the teaching and learning process such as an Internet connection, laptops for every student and interactive whiteboards, this may be a hindrance to many students and schools who could not afford it. The accessibility to technology is feared to be one of the reasons for causing a social divide (Duderstadt, Atkins, & Houweling, 2002). Only those who are rich and privileged will get to enjoy this new education system. Those who are poor and less privileged will continue to be left further behind. Besides that, computer skills also need to be taken into consideration during the incorporation of digital education (Brabazon, 2002). Not everybody is technology savvy. Some students may not have the keyboard skills to type as fast as required. As a result, they may lose out on the lessons more than they can gain. Inequality as well as injustice in education can occur due to the above reasons (Brabazon, 2002). Apart from that, the society still sees online education as sub-par to mainstream education (Duderstadt, Atkins, & Houweling, 2002). Therefore, it may pose to be detrimental when it is time for these students to search for jobs. Another disadvantage of digital education is the possibility of disruptive interruptions during the lessons due to technology issues (Duderstadt, Atkins, & Houweling, 2002). This may be caused by various reasons such as the Internet connection fails to connect midway through a lesson or the software is unable to load. Fixing these issues will result in a waste of time rather than focusing on the learning materials.
Digital education is the new emerging trend of the 21st century. The implementation of ICT into classrooms provides many advantages to both, students and educators. It has provided those who are living in rural and remote areas opportunities that are impossible to achieve in the past. Besides that, technologies can also eliminate the number of dropouts and as a result, a bigger workforce can be achieved for the country. Disabled students are also able to make use of this new teaching and learning methodology. Unfortunately, there are mixed reviews regarding digital education. Isolation and social divide seem to be the main concerns. In order to avoid inequality and injustice in the education system, governments and private organizations need to play a huge role. However, a few setbacks should not stop this new approach from progressing. Given enough time, students regardless of background will be able to enjoy the benefits of getting a digital education.
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