Growth in digital technology is a phenomenon that is able to be witnessed at every second in the contemporary 21stcentury society. Computers are becoming smaller, whilst becoming exponentially more powerful. Additionally, the cost per giga floating point operations per second (GFLOPs) was US$1.1 trillion in 1961 and now costs approximately US$0.08 (Angelini, 2014). Such rapid development has the greatest effect on today’s adolescents however, who are born into this digital age where technology rules, and a lack of knowledge or competency severely disadvantages a student. In fact in Australia, the proportion of students who have access to a computer at home rose from 91 per cent in 2000 to over 99 percent in 2013, whilst access to internet grew from 67 percent in 2000 to 98 per cent in 2013 (ACER, 2015). It is no wonder then, that many consider our contemporary society to be a ‘digital world’ – one where students are known as ‘digital natives’, and are completely immersed in online information and communication.
There are however, both positive and negative effects on students’ lives as a result of being ‘digital natives’. Immensely popular social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr are essentially extensions of students themselves, where they are able to express their thoughts and connect with not only their close friends, but also the global community (Ching & Foley, 2012). Students are able to engage in the rapid globalisation surround them that their parents possibly engage in, and hence are able to form friendships from other sides of the world. Access to information has also never been easier for students, meaning our teens are able to gain not only a larger volume of information and knowledge, but also a deeper and richer understanding as global perspectives on various topics are readily available to them (Ching & Foley, 2012). However, such access to social media and information comes with its own demons; cyberbullying and stalking, illegal activity e.g. pornography and gambling, as well as identity theft, are all issues that are all too commonplace.
As a result, as educators in this ‘digital world’, it is our responsibility to help and guide students to become not only digitally literate, but also fluent – to understand not only the endless possibilities available to them with the internet, but also the myriad of risks and dangers. Teachers should hence become familiar with the workings of social media sites and understand their security measures e.g. the ability to prevent anyone other than friends from messaging a person on Facebook, or disabling the public from seeing one’s profile (Gallo, 2013).
Ching, C.C. & Foley, B.J. (2012). Constructing the self in a Digital World. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gallo, L. (2013). Living in a digital world. Retrieved from https://now.uiowa.edu/2013/06/living-digital-world
Thomson, S. (2015). Australian Students in a Digital World. Retrieved from http://research.acer.edu.au/policyinsights/3/.