Children don’t know how to harness technology’s full potential: Pinoy prof

By Ted Alcuitas

Filipino professor Ron Darvin says today’s “digital natives” doesn’t necessarily mean they have the skills to use technology to its greatest potential.

Darvin will be speaking at Engaging Education for the Public Good at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 26 (Thursday) at the UBC Learning Exchange, 612 Main St., Vancouver.

Darwin, a  PhD candidate, researcher and lecturer in UBC’s faculty of education on language and literacy, says digital literacy includes many components and not all students are maximizing their potential.

“Digital literacy is truly being able to harness the power of technology, in terms of the different components, whether it be being able to acquire knowledge, to connect and develop social networks through social media and also as a form of entertainment,” Darvin told The Vancouver Sun in an interview.

“There is also the way we represent identities — the way we are able to take selfies or represent ourselves on Facebook is another form of digital literacy as well.”

He says parents and teachers have to challenge the idea that digital literacy comes naturally to kids, simply because they’re adept with Facebook or Snapchat.

“I’m sure you’ve heard that the Oxford Dictionary word of the year last year was post-truth,” Darvin said. “We live in an age where truth is so malleable. The thing with the Internet is that so many people can publish things online and they present it as the truth. Match that with the power of social media to disseminate information.

“It’s so easy, within a matter of seconds, for things that aren’t entirely true to go straight into your Facebook newsfeed, and without that critical lens, our kids will not be learning to sift through all these and find what legitimate knowledge is.”

The best thing parents can do to raise kids who are digitally literate is to become digitally literate themselves and talk about it often with their kids. He recommends adults learn things like how Facebook and Google algorithms work — how the technology companies’ websites determine what results will show up in what order or what a newsfeed will show.

“Parents can cultivate a home environment where kids can see technology not only as a form of entertainment, but a source of knowledge,” Darvin said.

A new curriculum, based on concepts rather than specific topics, is being introduced in schools across B.C. and Darvin said digital literacy will be key to student success.

“If we look at new curriculum in B.C., it talks about an inquiry-based approach. We really want our kids to be able to solve real-world problems and to be able to integrate across different disciplines. We want our students to be able to … find and create knowledge on their own,” Darvin said.

He would like to see a more methodical approach to teaching digital literacy in schools.

“When we integrate technology into a classroom, I think there has to be a more systematic approach to it, so we know exactly what to expect from students at specific grade levels, so that we know they’re developing these digital literacies and we know who is responsible for teaching that,” Darvin said.