How to Meet The Preferences of Digital Learners in Education 4.0

Today, we call learners ‘digital natives’, and they are beyond prepared to navigate the 4th Industrial Revolution in the 21st Century. Educators will have to revisit their training and endeavor to align their strategies to meet students where they are to help them get where they want to go.

We have experienced the 1st Industrial Revolution[IR]- when steam and water were used to mechanize production. We have been through the 2nd IR when electric power created mass production. The 3rd IR brought us electronics and information technology, used to automate production.

The 4th Industrial Revolution continues to expand advances in the areas of Robotics, autonomous vehicles, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Augmented Reality, 3-D printing, energy storage, bio and nanotechnology, etc…. The 4th IR brings the advancement of new technologies which interconnect the physical, digital and biological worlds.

Quickly evolving without an historical reference, this is disruptive technology. It affects business, government and each one of us and the way we navigate the world and how the world works. Education is logically impacted, affecting what we learn, the way we learn and therefore the ways we teach.

Humans and technology are now aligned. and within this framework, we will need to identify the preferences of learners in this 21st Century. And, identify the skills 21st Century educators must acquire and master to meet and actively engage learners. The operative term is actively engage.

Peers are a significant part of the learning process and teachers now will need to act as learning facilitators. Moreover, teachers will need to meet needs and preferences of these digital learners by infusing the new technologies into their teaching strategies.

Accordingly, nine trends have been identified as important considerations in Education 4.0. They are:

First: learning takes place at anytime and anyplace, not just the classroom. E-learning tools in a flipped classroom approach present opportunities for interactive learning in class, and theoretical parts will be learned outside of class.

Second: learning is personalized to each student. Harder tasks are introduced only after mastery is established at a certain level. Positive reinforcement promotes positive learning experience and boosts student confidence in their abilities.

Third: students get to choose how they wish to learn. BYOD[ Bring Your Own Device], blended learning and the flipped classroom are approaches that are available to educators in facilitating student learning.

Fourth: more project-based learning is presented for students to apply their knowledge and skills in short-term projects. Digital natives are collaborative, practicing organizational and time management skills-all useful in their futures.

Fifth: students are exposed to hands-on learning through field experiences. Educators will arrange internships mentoring and collaborative projects.

Sixth: data interpretation is required to apply the theoretical knowledge to numbers , use reasoning skills while making inferences based on logic and data they are given[also making traditional U.S. and World History irrational and incomplete]-all during the 21st Century learning process.

Seventh: students are assessed differently with conventional platforms irrelevant as well as insufficient. Factual knowledge is assessed during the learning process in class and practical application is assessed in the field-the real world, their world.

Eighth: students will voice their opinions in designing and updating the curriculum. This will keep and ensure the curriculum up-to-date, useful and relevant, also.

Ninth: students are more independent in their own learning, thus forcing teachers to act as needed facilitators to guide them through the learning process.

These nine trends of Education 4.0 call for teachers to shift learning responsibility onto the learners. The role of teacher is supporter of the transition rather than being intimidated or feeling undermined in their role.

This 21st Century learner welcomes challenges and group discussions. They require highly interactive learning environments. No longer can or will learners be satisfied or engaged in learning from their seats, sitting quietly in neat rows. They need movement and greater stimulation than generations before them. They want collaboration with their peers and learning taking place outside of the classroom. Like Doctors without Borders, 21st Century students want learning without boundaries.

Within this 4th IR and Education 4.0, educators must be prepared for ‘noisy’ classrooms. The noise will be a sweet sound out of which learning takes place. No more lectures and note-taking for the purpose of factual memorization. Students want the facts presented to be evidence of logic, comprehension and real-world relevance.

They have the advantage of disruptive technologies to gather information and knowledge today. Teachers will need to design lessons that will enable students to demonstrate useful skills from that acquired knowledge. The top 10 skills for learners in 2020 are identified below.

Educators will be tasked with creating environments conducive to supporting and building social-emotional learning[SEL]. Below are 14 strategies to help students develop their collaborative, communicative and problem-solving skills.

Having incorporated the strategies, students are hoped to have social and cultural awareness, leadership skills, persistence and initiative AND be more adaptive. Besides character qualities, students are also hoped to acquire com­petencies related to problem-solving/critical thinking skills, creativity, communication, and collaboration.

It is about time for instructors to consider inte­grating more current technologies into their teaching method­ologies. The students that they have now have different pref­erences than students that they had 10 years ago. Integrating more current technologies will make the instructors more creative in designing their lessons, thus making the learn­ing more interesting. Learning can also be more effective as the way it is delivered MUST match students’ prefer­ences.

This is Education 4.0! Children can no longer be told to enter the classrooms quietly and take an assigned seat and then take out their notebooks. Notebooks aren’t all made of paper anymore. Neither are tablets. Students will want to discuss relevance and demonstrate how they have transferred knowledge into useful 21st Century skills-individually and collectively. This is Education 4.0!

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