Helping to overcome the challenges parents (and teachers) face in the digital age

DLearn, The European Digital Learning Network asked EPA to contribute to their website, that we did, by an article entitled Helping to overcome the challenges parents (and teachers) face in the digital age. It is hopefully the first step in collaboration for a Europe prepared for the digital age, with special focus on parents and children from our side.

DLearn aims to embrace the challenges brought by the digital transformation in terms of digital skills mismatch and digital learning opportunities. The 47% of Europeans is not properly digitally skilled, yet in the near future 90% of jobs will require some level of digital skills and numerous opportunities in terms of jobs that are going to shape the labour market.

It is not just digital gadgets and methods getting more and more widespread, but also the quickly changing online scenario, that poses a great challenge to parents all over the world, not just developed countries. We live in a kind of interim period in which most parents and also the majority of teaching professionals were born before the digital age. Some of the issues we are facing will be automatically solved with the digital generation becoming parents, but still the challenges need to be tackled. This is an opportunity to list some of the challenges and to flash possible solutions, probably paving the way for discussion in more detailed.
The main challenge, with a number of consequences, is that it is not easy to find the right place and proportion of digital media and digital tools use. The background for this is very often being afraid of the unknown. We all know teachers who would ban smartphones from the class instead of using them extensively, but also of parents who do not see the computer or tablet as a learning tool, but something that could be used in a limited way, often as a reward for behaving well or doing the homework. In some European contexts teachers are prohibited to be present in social media, while in other countries social media is widely used for teaching and community building purposes by teachers, parents and students alike.
It is also an important learning point for both parents and teachers to become aware of the fact that Generation Z’s brain structure is physically different from previous one according to substantial research, as Prof. Éva Gyarmathy often simplifies it, they are wired in a different way. Thus we, as educators are facing the challenge of having to use learning environments, teaching tools and methods that we, as educators may not find useful for our own learning.  Still, all parents and teachers as lifelong learners need to learn about what is good for our children’s learning, even if we are not ‘wired’ for that kind of learning. This is a factor that makes it difficult to make the right decisions on our choice of digital tools, gadgets and apps. We should not be content if all children have a tablet in hand, but we also have to find the right use of it.
And this leads to another great challenge. Parents and teachers alike are in a situation when they have to rethink their role. The parent-child or teacher-child relationship has traditionally been totally imbalanced, with the adult being the source of knowledge and wisdom and the child being the obedient learner. This has not been the case for minimum over a decade. We must reassess our roles, change our attitudes and train ourselves to become conscious mutual learners. It is especially important to acknowledge that in the field of digital tools use we will learn a lot from our children, while it is still the role of adults to provide children with the right level of awareness and necessary skills to protect themselves from cyberbullying and similar threats, to become critical thinkers able to validate information coming from the internet, and also to find the right balance between real and digital, also putting emphasis on physical well-being and health.
The best way to start is to sit down and start thinking about things you have learnt from your own children or students.
Eszter Salamon, President, EPA
More information on DLearn here: http://dlearn.eu/

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