Teaching in a digital world: Digital blurring
Digital blurring is described as the undefined, grey area of the skills that are learnt through the everyday use of digital technology (such as mobile phones, tablets or computers). It also describes how these skills can be integrated into work, study or professional life. Skills can be obtained through the use of digital technologies such as online gaming platforms, blogging, social media or television (Howell, 2014). In today’s digital world, students are already developing many skills through the use of digital technologies in their personal life. There are many opportunities for teachers to connect the digital technology skills learnt outside of the classroom to motivate students and enhance the formal classroom learning experiences.
The skills gained through digital technology range depending on the use, application and interest of the user. Physical skills such as hand-eye coordination may be gained (Howell, 2014), along with balance via the use of a Nintendo Wii, or online language such as slang (Howell, 2014). Teachers are now educating students that are considered “digital natives” (Churchill et al., 2016, p. 122), therefore the use of digital technology should be utilised to its full capacity by students. Digital learning is “a tool for learning as much as they want about virtually any topic” (p. 122). As cited by Churchill et al., (2016), 8 to 18 year olds are connected to digital and sensory stimulation for more than eight hours each day. Adolescents online use is also presented by McGoginal (2010) which reflects that each American student engages in 10,000 hours of online use before they are 21 years old. McGoginal (2010) highlights that if people by the age of 21 have engaged in 10,000 hours of content they shall be considered experts in their field which can also be said about students within their years of learning.
The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability is part of the general capabilities within the Australian Education Curriculum. In order for students to learn via digital technology, Scratch (an online gaming tool) can be used to meet the Australian Curriculum Science: Science Understanding: Linear motion and force content descriptor (Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority [ACARA], n.d., ACSPH060). Scratch, will allow students to compare motion of an object based on varying speeds, velocities, displacement and acceleration. The use of ICT also assists students in achieving the other components of the ACARA general capabilities (literacy, numeracy, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding).
The benefits of teaching in a digital world are that for the majority of students, it is a motivator to learn via student-centered learning (Woolfolk & Margetts, 2013) and allows for student engagement. The benefit of using online tools allows teachers to tailor the learning activities to the wide spectrum of students and their knowledge and content level. An important aspect of learning is noted by Howell (2012) as “play.” Howell (2012) states play as “meaning the incorporation of creative technologies for creative, experimental and purposeful activities to achieve desired learning outcomes.” The statement about play is reiterated by McGoginal (2010) as gamers are good at “social fabric” which is explained as building trust with people in which you “play” with i.e. engage. A benefit of this in the classroom is the minimalisation of student exclusion from participation and encouragement of critical and creative thinking, and the ability of self appraisal. An example of this application is shown by The Physics Classroom. Students are able to participate in exercises online of content learnt in the classroom and then have the ability to self appraise on what they know and their areas of improvement.
Figure 1. Example of The Physics Classroom (n.d.) exercises
There are many free and easily accessible tools available to teachers encourage the use of digital blurring within the classroom. Digital blurring assists students to stay engaged and motivated which in turn increases participation and minimises distraction.