Education system must reflect 21st-century learning

9 Jun 2008

The Irish education system needs a complete overhaul if it wants to reflect the nature of 21st-century learning with digital technologies, said the Digital Hub Development Agency (DHDA) located in Dublin City.

Philip Flynn, CEO of the DHDA, called for the integration of digital media elements into the Junior and Leaving Cert exams as well as the need for more digital technologies such as interactive whiteboards and laptops to be used within the curriculum.

“The exam halls of the future should have students working away on laptops, rather than slavishly writing by hand for hours on end,” said Flynn.

Flynn said the future of both learning and assessment is digital: “Greater use of digital media in the classroom could help to ease the huge burden placed on Leaving and Junior Cert students. We believe digital technologies could be used to much greater effect in ongoing assessment, for example.”

Subjects where assessment is not just based on exams but also on project work would benefit greatly from digital media, he added.

The Digital Hub itself is involved in regeneration projects in Dublin’s southwest inner city and runs courses for young adults on shooting and editing films digitally, photography and computer animation.

“The Digital Hub is currently involved in a project that will redefine the existing definition of literacy,” said Flynn.

“In the 21st century, it is not enough to speak of literacy purely in relation to reading, writing and numeracy. In this day and age, people without digital skills will be left behind, and the very concept of literacy must be redefined to reflect this reality.

Flynn warned that unless the education system takes immediate action and equips students with the necessary digital media tools we will fall behind our economic competitors.

Another point made by Flynn was that the average school child is already very technologically savvy and this can and should be extended into the classroom to their advantage: “They are used to playing computer games; they use social networking sites to maintain contact with their friends; they have mobile phones and other digital media devices from an early age.

“But, when they go to school, their use of and interest in digital media is not reflected in the classroom environment.”

By Marie Boran