“What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves”
There is a common ground, I kept thinking. In total, three states, two countries, 106 executives from 47 different institutions representing a total of 2 million students. Yet, after every session, I was sure: there is a common ground. It was there, in the questions about how Swinburne University built their digital literacies hub, in the interest of why Macquarie University sees digital storytelling as a foundation to 21st century skills, in how attentively the RMIT students were listened to when sharing their stories.
In 2022, Adobe hosted a series of three thought leadership executive roundtables in Australia and New Zealand, to discuss how digital literacy impacts the workforce of the future. In a nutshell, we locked ourselves in a room for half a day, with our questions, doubts, most inspiring examples, some failures, and a lot of curiosity: what does the future of our students look like? What is the role that digital literacy plays on it? What should we do now to better prepare them? Is it really the future, or our present already?
Amongst the variety of executive leaders that came to those events, the myriad of opinions and perspectives, the differences that each institution hold and challenges they must overcome, I can pinpoint one element that was not disputable: the sense of responsibility for the future of our students in a digital world. It can sound obvious, as this is what tertiary study aims to do: prepare individuals not only by providing them with adequate job skills, but also prepare them to be active members of their communities and societies. However, if we look at how we have been delivering our classes, engaging with our students, assessing them – it’s no news – there’s a disconnect.
Who are our students in a digital world? Should we even say ‘digital’, or this is just the world as it is? How does it impact our pedagogy? How does it apply to their learning journey? Some suggested that we need to allow them to fail. That they need space to create agency, to lead their own learning journey, to co-create with their professors. Others mentioned that making them feel uncomfortable navigating digital tools in a controlled environment is the key – until they become so familiar with technology, that their attitude towards a new one is rather exciting, no longer confronting. After all, the jobs they’ll hold in the future don’t event exist yet, and the technologies used for that are also yet to be invented. But no, there was no consensus. Not around all that.
“What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves”, wrote one of the most influential philosophers of education of the 20th century, Paulo Freire. The 2022 experience with these events taught me that no other consensus is needed, but this one. Luckily, those 106 executives from 47 different institutions, representing a total of 2 million students, made it very clear. There is a common ground.
We look forward to keeping asking questions and helping finding solutions in 2023!
Adobe’s Pedagogical Evangelist