By Rep. Darrio Melton
If you’ve spent any amount of time around a young person lately, you’ve probably had a tough time prying the iPhone, iPad, iSomething, away from them. The new generation of students is growing up in a digital age–one where they can’t imagine having to stop to use a pay phone, get a map for directions or live without googling anything on their mind.
Yet when those same children step into the classroom, many teaching strategies haven’t changed since I was in school. The YouTube and Instagram generation is being told to sit in a desk and write with pen and paper, read from textbooks and learn from chalkboard lectures. We know their workplace will look nothing like this, but we’re continuing to instruct them with out-dated methods.
Meanwhile, schools that have the funding and ability are implementing digital components to the classroom, preparing students for an increasingly technological economy.
Those schools that are utilizing technology in the classroom are changing the dynamic of education from passive learning to active participation, giving the students the ability to get instant feedback and learn in a way that fits with their individual learning style. Teachers are able to promote collaboration on projects, upload lectures to iTunes, and empower students to harness the power of technology to complete their assignments.
And we’re sending our pen-and-paper students out into the workforce to compete with them.
Now I understand that we have many schools in the state that are digitally integrating their classrooms to capture all of these benefits. But I also understand that we have schools in this state that don’t have the resources to offer a simple computer course for students.
If we, as policymakers, are serious about moving Alabama into a 21st century economy, recruiting businesses and promoting our workforce, we must start by building a 21st century education system for every student in our state.
Rather than spending $30 million tax dollars to take rich kids out of failing schools, we could invest $30 million into making sure that our schools have the tools they need to give students the resources for a quality education.
The economy isn’t slowing down, and it’s certainly not returning to an era where proficiency in typing is enough to be considered “computer savvy.” The sooner we begin familiarizing our students with digital tools for success, the faster they’ll be able to compete in a global economy and move Alabama boldly forward.
Rep. Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.