6.1.6. Digital learning trends and the role of educators

The need to be able to adapt as situations change and be confident in moving across the digital space is one of the key features of our era. In all domains, including education,  understanding and adopting the current and future trends in ‘digital literacy’ will not be a matter of choice but rather a necessity to provide the basic skills and knowledge for survival in the increasingly digitized world. Educators are key mediators in the effort to keep up with the latest developments. Teachers must be able to pick and choose the most relevant elements of these trends for their students and learning courses. Being able to react to individual students’ needs as they arise and to assess the impact of digital learning in real time and on an ongoing basis is crucial. This also applies for the professional and thorough preparation of educational content, so that it is aligned with the curriculum objectives of the available online resources.  Using all these trends as part of the learning process must avoid the chocolate-covered-broccoli problem where the substance is overlooked for the sake of the cover and rather become a practice on the basis of deliberate and evidence-based methods. While all these are powerful tools for new ways of teaching, they can end up being costly and ineffective tools when used improperly. Greater amounts of data from real-world teaching scenarios in each country where it is being considered are needed before major overhauls of educational systems. Therefore, these trends can be a blessing for the future of education, but only after extensive pilot programmes show where the application of these trends is most useful.

Since the trends mentioned are quite controversial and their implications are debated intensely, the discussion for teachers being part of a community of digital innovation needs to continue for the sake of clarifying not only their role in education but also the form that education itself takes with these trends in place. In part, this  is imperative in order for teachers to respond effectively on recurrent discussions on whether new technologies will ever replace the contribution that educators themselves offer (Chesser, 2012). Currently, the discussions point to the reality that technology is merely an augmentation or addition to a teacher’s contribution and that, rather similar to the changes in manufacturing through automation, teachers will now be responsible for supervising students’ activity remotely, creating flexible educational experiences, and managing the social needs of students in new and challenging social learning environments. In order to train teachers on these new roles, education systems will need to incorporate these trends in all phases of their processes, provide constant administrative assistance, feedback and peer support. Additionally, greater cooperation with the private sector and non-profit organisations, which may develop more enriched and flexible curriculums can be a way forward to support the vision for a revolution in learning through digital literacy and digital learning.