11 January 2007

UK think tank Demos on education for a digital generation

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Education for a Digital Generation
The report “Their Space: Education for a digital generation” draws on qualitative research with children and polling of parents to counter the myths obscuring the true value of digital media. Approaching technology from the perspective of children, it tells positive stories about how they use online space to build relationships and create original content. It argues that the skills children are developing through these activities, such as creativity, communication and collaboration, are those that will enable them to succeed in a globally networked, knowledge-driven economy.

In a report launched today (Thursday) the influential think tank Demos calls on schools to get past fears about children’s internet use and harness its learning potential.

The report Their Space: Education for a digital generation draws on research showing that a generation of children have made online activity a part of everyday life, with parents and schools still far behind.

The report argues that children are developing a sophisticated understanding of new technologies outside of formal schooling, gaining creative and entrepreneurial skills demanded by the global knowledge economy.

Schools are failing to develop these skills, with many attempting to limit children’s online activity to ICT ‘ghettos’ while banning the use of social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube.

The research, based on nine months of interviews, focus groups and recording children’s online activity, found that:

  • A majority of children use new media tools to make their lives easier and strengthen existing friendship networks
  • Almost all children are involved in creative production – e.g. uploading/editing photos and building websites
  • A smaller group of ‘digital pioneers’ are engaged in more groundbreaking activities
  • Children are well aware of potential risks, with many able to self regulate – contrary to popular assumptions about safety
  • Many children have their own ‘hierarchy of digital activity’ and are much more conscious of the relative values of online activity than their parents and teachers

The report goes on to make a number of proposals on how formal education in the UK can adapt to the growing dominance of online culture in children’s lives, including the recommendation that children should be given the opportunity to build up a ‘creative portfolio’ alongside traditional forms of assessment, access to which would be determined by the children themselves

Read press release
Download report (pdf, 302 kb, 81 pages)
‘In class, I have to power down’ [The Guardian]

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