Preparing for the 21st century learner: why schools must embrace mobile technology

Simon Pridham

Simon now works as a professional adviser for the Welsh Government as well as being LIFE Programme manager and Executive Headteacher at Casllwchwr Primary.

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In 2010, the primary school I was Headteacher of gained seven grade ones in an ESTYN inspection, while several sector leading examples of practice were highlighted by ESTYN and the Welsh Government.

Shortly after, I reflected on the previous twelve months, which had been hectic to say the least, and challenged myself to take the school to the next level. But how?

After talking to a group of eleven year old pupils something quickly became very clear. These pupils, using technology, peer support, networks of collaboration and online mobile resources were able to build an education for themselves anywhere and at anytime.

A decade ago, outside the classroom walls, information for your average eleven year old was scarce. In 2013 this information can be found in abundance: Google, YouTube, online blogs, social media, the list goes on and on.

Therefore, pupils need to see their teachers as modellers of learning, master learners, risk takers, facilitators, collaborators, creators and to top it off those teachers have to be tech savvy. We have to change as educators and you should be excited by that, embrace the challenge and reap the rewards. So how do you do it?

In my opinion you need love learning in order to be able to model effective learning systems. You need to be brave enough to take risks, innovative and most importantly a facilitator of learning.

The 21st century classroom, where technology is as accessible as paper and pen, focuses on personalised learning, developing independent and creative thinkers and giving students a driving seat in their educational journey with the teacher, as co-pilots rather than passengers.

A little while ago when my three-year-old daughter wanted to make a paper aeroplane, she instinctively handed me my tablet device and asked me for help. We ventured straight to YouTube where we had several tutorial videos to choose from on the first page of results, and she soon found one which she liked the look of.

Within minutes, she was pausing the video as we built the aeroplane together step by step. I taught her how to rewind and play back the video as we progressed; an hour or so later, we were testing her prototypes outside.

Welcome to the world of the 21st century learner. KS3 pupils today have access to more information through their smartphones than I did in my entire library in university as a student. Yet, a high percentage of secondary educators still ban pupils using smartphones in lessons. Talk about missing a trick, alienating a generation and turning pupils off school!

What society needs today are people who can ask good questions, come up with creative answers, critically examine these possible solutions in order to work out which is most effective, and then share the idea with others. As Albert Einstein once said, 'Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.'

Learning institutions that are thriving in the 21st century have classrooms that embrace the social, physical and emotional aspects of learning. Always remember that technology is simply one part of this effective environment. A creative curriculum, highly effective pedagogy and mobile technology together create the surroundings where pupils like my daughter feel appreciated.

We need to realise that some of the best teachers my daughter will ever experience might be sitting on the other side of the world, or be completely virtual. Prepare yourself for the 21st century learner who now enters your school.

Simon is currently writing his first book called ‘Freaked Out: The Bewildered Teachers' Guide to Digital Learning' which is aimed at using tablets in education. It is due to be published in Easter 2014 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

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