What’s the Future of Learning?

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Soon, millions of children will be preparing to start first grade. They come to the classroom having been exposed to tablets, e-readers and smart phones, websites and video games, TV and YouTube and Vine. Today’s first graders inhabit a world that’s very different from what their parents knew at that age. Yet, these kids walk into a classroom that has looked and functioned in almost the same way for decades.

This disparity between the realities of changing students and the relative stagnation of their learning space is the focus of the Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet. They’re asking, “What does learning look like today and what should it look like tomorrow?”

In their most recent report, Learner At the Center of a Networked World, the Aspen Institute outlines recommendations and action items that shift the way students are being taught. It recommends redesigning the learning environment and leveraging technology to develop and access learning networks that are safe and interoperable. It also outlines the roles teachers and parents as well as businesses and policymakers can play in the education process.

An interesting facet of the report is its focus on digital age literacies, a combination of media literacy, digital literacy and social-emotional literacies. Mastering these skills will help students effectively and responsibly navigate within the digital world. As the largest broadband provider in the US, cable places digital literacy high on our priorities list. Helping kids understand the content they interact with and how to act responsibly while online is very important to us.

Research we recently commissioned shows parents and teachers acknowledge the importance of digital citizenship but see it as a tall order. Many adults don’t know how to address and explain the issues kids face online – especially those who didn’t have the Internet as teens. Understanding this reality, cable has long provided media literacy education and, more recently, digital citizenship education, which addresses the same skills and competencies as digital age literacies.

The Aspen Institute Report also outlines several recommendations to improve digital and media literacy in schools. These include funding the development of online programs, incorporating digital age literacies into the Common Core Standards and identifying gaps in current curricula that need to be filled.

It may seem overwhelming, but the task force sets out a thoughtful set of recommendations to help schools through these changes. And with widely available learning tools, we can stop wondering what to do and begin properly preparing our kids for their future.