The New Wave of Digital Education: Every Child Moves Ahead

By 1stFive Archives
Cover image for  article: The New Wave of Digital Education: Every Child Moves Ahead

Chapter 10 of Jack Myers' book Hooked Up: A New Generation's Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World focuses on the digitally-driven advances in education for Internet Natives. Hooked Up was published in June 2012 and is winner of the International Book Award for Youth Issues and finalist for the USA Book Award for Pop Culture. Hooked Up focuses on "Internet Pioneers," the first generation to grow up with the Internet, born 1991-95 and emerging as the most important generation of this century

Some of the doors Internet Pioneers will open are the doors of schools, with a large percentage intending to make education a career.

Internet Pioneers will be leaders in restructuring school systems and education programs, applying technology to take greater advantage of online learning opportunities; increase their resources; enable art, drama and music programs; reinvest in sports teams and physical education; and most importantly, improve communications systems and services. Curricula will expand to prepare students for jobs in an Internet-dependent economy. Growth areas will include gaming development, commerce, video production and content development, marketing and public communications, social media, etc. Other changes will include an increased focus on issues that are vital to moving society forward and about which Internet Pioneers are passionate, such as climate change and political studies.

Internet Pioneers will move into and influence the educational system at all levels: community, state and national. They will advocate and implement online educational programs at the primary and secondary levels.

Internet Pioneers are among the first classes to graduate from high schools that modified their curriculum under "No Child Left Behind," a program that diminished arts programs, physical education, home economics and other classes not focused on math, sciences and basic curriculum. They have witnessed the neglect of basic tools required for a well-rounded education.

In 1987, the American Association for Higher Education Bulletin published "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education." It called for "best practices" such as the encouragement of greater interaction between teachers and students, prompt teacher feedback to students, active learning, respect for new learning methods, and communicating high expectations. The Internet is finally making these principles a reality. There are challenges: schools must first become technologically wired with Wi-Fi access and charging stations, yet many schools still lack wireless access or even sufficient electrical outlets.

"The web is packed with a vast array of content accessible by teachers and students alike," write David Houle and Jeff Cobb in ShiftEd: A Call to Action for Transforming K-12 Education. They point to "the vast library of open educational content published by institutions and individual contributors around the world."

The online Kahn Academy ( provides a prime example. The Kahn Academy offers nearly 2,000 (and the number is still growing) teaching videos on YouTube that are known for their comprehensive, user-friendly content. Another example is Open Education Resources (OER), a free resource that operates under the terms of Creative Commons. OER Commons lists an astounding 20,000-plus resources for primary and secondary education.

Future teachers will be curators and facilitators of knowledge tools such as OER and resources such as books stored and available on-demand on the "cloud". Students will be encouraged to find and recommend new resources to introduce into classroom discussions and debates.

The University of Washington has developed online collaborative programs open to all students. The goal is "to promote student cooperation and collaboration," and the programs use tools that allow students to communicate and collaborate about any topic they choose. Such tools include the use of chat rooms as well as "Share Spaces" with simultaneous text and file sharing that enables users to discuss the files together.

Lisa Thumann at Rutgers University points out, "For a generation that has embraced a joystick and a mouse since they were toddlers, these technologies can help them learn how to be creative, how to communicate and how to work together."

Future students will use e-readers (Kindles, Nooks, Apple e-readers). Backpacks loaded with heavy texts will be replaced by the ability to download text, learning tools and support programs into e-readers and tablets. Apple has already introduced iBooks 2 for grades K–12 and iTunes U for educators. Apple also delivers thousands of college lectures through iTunes U and enables professors to develop complete online courses. According to Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, the Apple founder "had his sights set on textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform." The iBookstore will soon feature textbooks from most––if not all––textbook publishers and most have already begun publishing to the Apple platform. Apple also supports the production and publication of e-textbooks. College and K–12 texts will soon be universally available for download to Apple products, Kindles and Nooks.

Home Schooling: Positives and Negatives

In the past few decades, a growing number of parents have sought to limit the education of their children to the home for a variety of reasons, a trend that has been enriched by Internet access.

There are both positive and negative implications of home schooling, and there is continuing debate over its value. Some parents have restricted school access to their children with the objective of limiting their children's exposure to issues with which they disagree. The movement toward home schooling for these reasons may increase in the short-run due to neighborhood peer pressure, but it is doomed to fail. Controlled education would need to be accompanied by an Internet-free lifestyle, and effective home schooling, almost by definition, requires that students have open access to online resources. Home schooling parents will not be able to limit their children's access to information, nor will states, such as Texas and a handful of others that have rewritten textbooks to reflect the political positions of current political leaders.

The Internet is making it virtually impossible to limit access to information and knowledge, and will ultimately further the erosion of both home schooling and textbooks as viable learning options. Internet Pioneers are too well-informed, too questioning of institutions and authorities––including their parents and teachers––and too resourceful. They have access to too much advanced technology and are being integrated into the mainstream of a global culture. As Internet Pioneers gain control, the institutional efforts to control and manage learning will only serve to advance the move of the classroom to the Internet.

How Will Classrooms Change?

Online forums, message boards, chat rooms and global student interchange will become more accessible to students in and out of the schools. This will enable greater feedback while students are working on their projects rather than after they're completed.

More classrooms are introducing interactive whiteboards and desktops that allow students to ask their classmates questions, interact on a message board while discussing class topics, and communicate in real time with other students and experts from around the world. Both students and teachers can facilitate global discussions and debates with the support of online resources and specially developed textbook "apps." A recent Cisco advertising campaign reinforces this future reality.

The traditional textbook used as the exclusive source of knowledge and answers will become obsolete. In schools that cannot afford teacher specialists, Internet-based tools can facilitate new teaching modules that students can use on their own. Online programs also help teachers stay current both on subject matter and teaching techniques.

Motion and Voice Recognition as Educational Tools

Encyclopedias were once the center of the home library. Parents directed their children to find facts and answers by "looking it up," reading and writing down what they found. However, the Internet has changed and will continue to change dramatically the ways in which we retrieve and interact with information. There are drastic shifts on the near-term horizon in gathering, sharing and curating information through the use of voice recognition and motion detection software.

The Microsoft Xbox Kinect and other motion detection software allow learners to fully immerse themselves by using their bodies rather than mouse, keyboard or controller to interact with the information on the screen. There are infinite implications to the development of this technology. Examples include:

  • Incorporating sports training, physical exercise and fitness into classroom curriculum.
  • Enabling art and music programs through online learning programs.
  • Training physicians/surgeons in complicated surgeries before actual surgery.
  • Training in many other occupations.

Voice and motion recognition is truly in its infancy, but MIT and others are developing advanced computer languages that learn and respond to eye movement, brain waves and breath.

Siri, Apple's intelligent software assistant application, allows communication without manual input, enabling students with physical disabilities to control a computer without physical taxation. More than simple voice-to-text dictation software, Siri is an "intelligent personal assistant." Siri works with native applications to handle tasks such as web searching, setting reminders and sending messages. That means students can start research on a topic immediately, set reminders about tests or assignments, even reinforce learning simply by asking Siri to occasionally repeat a set of words, definitions or other information throughout the day.

Siri offers unique benefits to teachers as well. Rather than sifting through reference materials, teachers can quickly ask for the information they want to share with students. Voice recognition software has the potential to improve reading, writing and language skills. For those learning to read, the instant feedback Siri offers on misspelled words can help make a student into a more confident learner. Siri can also assist in aggregating resources for additional learning based on student-specific results. And voice recognition software changes testing capabilities, offering oral examinations tied to applications that instantly evaluate, grade and share results with teachers or administrators from any location.

Remote Learning

Remote––or distance––learning programs will continue to gain popularity and significantly alter the educational landscape. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 4.3 million undergraduate students took at least one online course in 2007–2008. In 2010, 6.1 million college students took at least one online course, an increase of 29.5% in three years. In 2007–2008, online enrollment represented 21.6% of all college enrollment, and in the fall of 2010, online enrollment represented 31.3%. Online enrollment increased by more than ten percent in 2010 over 2009.

Distance learning programs offer students the opportunity to matriculate from prestigious universities without leaving home. A rural student who wanted to pursue an MBA used to be limited to getting a degree from a local college or moving away from home. Now many universities offer an online MBA, including prestigious schools such as Duke University, the University of North Carolina, Indiana University, Penn State University, the University of Florida, the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and Arizona State University. The entry requirements are as competitive as the campus-based programs and the degrees have the same level of prestige.

Even prestigious Ivy League schools are offering online educational opportunities. For example, Harvard University offers online courses through the Harvard Extension School, which offers bachelor's degrees and master's degrees in a wide range of areas from the sciences to the liberal arts and offers a wide range of courses online. The Harvard Extension Program is reasonably priced at around $975 per course for undergraduate courses to $1,950 per course for graduate level courses.

The Extension School does have its limitations. Not every course is offered online, most programs require two semesters of residency for the Harvard degree, and there is a six online-course limit for master's degree programs. Still, Harvard is allowing students to pursue a Harvard education without having to spend the entire time on campus.

The College Loan Bubble Explodes

Remote learning also opens up cost-effective opportunities to gain a degree. Students save by eliminating moving expenses, commuting costs, parking, child care, and extra time off work, and there can be significant savings in tuition as well.

W ith total outstanding college loan debt surpassing credit card debt for the first time in 2011, the looming educational debt crisis could prove as catastrophic as the real estate loan bubble. Students are borrowing more for their college educations, yet declining job opportunities and starting jobs with lower salaries will affect students' abilities to repay these loans.

President Obama has tackled this potential economic crisis by offering incentives to schools and states to keep their educational costs in check. One way to accomplish this is through a less expensive remote learning program. There are several state schools that offer online MBAs at in-state tuition levels, regardless of the state in which the student lives.

  • The University of North Dakota charges $363.78 per credit hour for the online MBA, which costs the student a total of $12,378 for an MBA. Compare this to the $35,876 UND charges nonresident students for an on-campus MBA, more than $23,000 more than obtaining the MBA online.
  • The University of Nebraska-Lincoln charges $531 per credit hour for its distance MBA program. The degree is a 48-credit-hour degree, so the total tuition for the MBA would be $25,488. If a non-resident attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on campus, the student would be charged $916 per credit hour. This would raise the total tuition to $43,968 for the MBA, and this is not including moving expenses, commuting and other expenses.
  • The University of Massachusetts-Amherst charges $750 per credit hour for its online MBA. The MBA is a 37-credit-hour program, so the total tuition of the online MBA at the UM-Amherst would be $27,750. A non-Massachusetts resident would be charged $48,178, more than $20,000 higher than the cost of obtaining the degree online.

Remote learning also creates opportunities to study majors that local colleges often do not offer, creating opportunities for graduates of these schools to have wider employment opportunities. For example, an insurance coverage attorney who wants to get an LLM in insurance law has few options. However, the University of Connecticut offers an online option that allows attorneys to pursue their LLM in insurance from anywhere in the world. Such programs greatly expand educational opportunities for all students, as they aren't limited to the offerings of their local colleges and universities. Internet Natives have an expanded array of opportunities to learn, grow, and develop academically, and they have the Internet skills to take advantage of them.

Remote learning programs also open up possibilities for international degrees. Business schools such as IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, the Manchester Business School in Manchester, England, and the Warwick Business School in Coventry, England, are examples of online MBA programs that allow students to explore international educations from home.

Access to Education for All

Numerous studies have shown that individuals enjoy increased health, earnings and longevity with higher levels of education. Increasing the access of illiterate, developmentally challenged and foreign language-speaking students to higher levels of education and training could potentially help close the disparities that exist across socio-economic and ethnic lines. As Lewis and Burd-Sharps point out in a 2010 report, any advancement in human development requires the opportunity for individuals to gain the highest possible standard of physical and mental health. Changing the health and earnings potential of its citizens changes the economic development of the country.

The Future of Education

Pre-Internet industrialized systems will not be easily changed or dismantled. But as Internet Pioneers move into educational careers, they will be powerful advocates for advancing online learning programs and restructuring the educational models to embrace instant global access to learning resources. Internet Natives will receive an education in school that complements and advances the one they gain at home and on their own.

In summary, the integration of motion for kinesthetic learners or as a tool to encourage physicality and fitness; the use of voice to aid impaired or geographically separated students; the integration of fun and flexible learning technology into curricula; and advances into voice-based instant translation applications have educators looking past their current boundaries and into vast possibilities.

Education will progressively move from the organized, highly structured and textbook/teacher-centric classroom to an Internet-centric model using televisions, computers, tablets and mobile devices. From pre-school to post-graduate education, students will depend on the Internet for advancing their education, with the guidance, support and direction of their teachers.

Chapter 11: Spongebob, Family Guy & Pretty Little Liars Explain the 'Hooked Up' Generation

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