Let me mention a two challenges in particular and suggest how three recent trends could in fact help cultivate abilities that help us meet these challenges.
First, they rightly recognize that “the role of the Academy – and the way we prepare students for their future lives – is changing” (4). Under this general heading, they emphasize that it is incumbent upon educators to “adapt teaching and learning practices to meet the needs of today’s learners” (4).
The second challenge involves the manner in which digital media literacy (I would substitute “fluency” here) is becoming a “key skill” in every discipline and profession. Because of this, they go on to say that educators who do not help students develop digital media literacy skills are putting their students at a disadvantage. More specifically, they insist that “digital literacy must necessarily be less about the tools and more about ways of thinking and seeing, and of crafting narrative” (5).
The talk of “skill” here strikes me as too limited, for we are really speaking about a whole set of abilities, indeed, of actively cultivated habits of thinking, learning, acting and teaching. If we understanding the challenges as involving abilities in this more active sense, then the key trends in technology the NMC identifies can be seen as holding some of the keys to the very challenges we face.
Here is what I have in mind.
Take three of the main trends:
- “people expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to;”
- “the technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and … decentralized;” and
- “the work of students is increasingly seen as collaborative by nature” (4).
Current trends are leading us toward and habituating us to a digital world in which learning and teaching are ubiquitous, decentralized and collaborative.
It seems to me that if we can cultivate the habits of teaching and learning in such an environment, we will be well on our way to “adapting our teaching and learning practices to meet the needs of today’s learners.” I would insist, here, however, that faculty too should be included under the heading “today’s learners.”
If teacher and student alike can enter into digital community with one another in collaborative and dynamic ways, we can cultivate together the abilities to think and see things differently, to tell new narratives and to respond to one another in more relevant and productive ways.
It may just be that the key trends in social media technology are cultivating in us, when they are used in imaginative, innovative and nuanced ways, the very habits we will need to meet the challenges we currently face.