Authentic Learning for Teaching Reading: Foundation Phase Pre-Service Student Teachers' Learning Experiences of Creating and Using Digital Stories in Real Classrooms

By Moodley, Trevor; Aronstam, Shelley | Reading & Writing, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Authentic Learning for Teaching Reading: Foundation Phase Pre-Service Student Teachers' Learning Experiences of Creating and Using Digital Stories in Real Classrooms


Moodley, Trevor, Aronstam, Shelley, Reading & Writing


Introduction

The important role of storytelling in young children's learning experiences cannot be underestimated. Matthews-DeNatale (2008:2) supports this view by emphasising the close link between storytelling and meaning-making (the essence of learning in our view). Ohler further highlights the importance of storytelling in early learning experiences by stating:

The story form becomes a way to shape curricula, build units of instruction and frame academic arguments. Above all, stories become the cornerstone of constructivist learning in which students become heroes of their own learning adventures. (2008:9)

Ohler also stresses that the structure and rhythm of a story, as well as the emotional connection it elicits, assists with the recall of important information which might have been overlooked, if presented in the form of a lesson, lecture or report.

Our lives are increasingly being permeated by the use of technology, even in the ways we learn. Prensky (2001) emphasises this view by claiming that learners have changed because of the advent and rapid dissemination of digital technology in the last decades of the 20th century and its progression into the 21st century. In fact Prensky (2001:3) describes the current generation of learners as 'digital natives' - referring to people born during or after the introduction of digital technology, and those born before this period - as 'Digital Immigrants'. He further states that students graduating at present have spent less than 5000 h of their lives reading and over 10 000 h playing video and/or computer games. Prensky also posits that the widespread use of technology and digital natives' high levels of interaction with it, has resulted in them thinking and processing information fundamentally differently from their predecessors (Prensky 2001:3). The majority of educators probably fall outside the category of digital natives. They therefore need to review and align their teaching methodologies for more relevant and effective learning experiences among their learners, the digital natives. Educators should therefore consider the role of technology in the classroom even when teaching literacy to young learners. Therefore, Beers, Beers and Smith (2010:8) caution that we can no longer only consider a single method of teaching reading and literacy to children.

Prensky highlights some of the challenges educators (digital immigrants) face today in teaching the current generation of learners. Firstly, many educators speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age) and therefore find it challenging to teach a generation of learners that speak an entirely new language (2001:2). Secondly digital natives appear to prefer the rapid receipt of information. This means that they prefer their graphics before text and games to 'serious' work: such digital natives demand instant gratification. Thirdly, many teachers who are digital immigrants assume that learners are the same as they have always been and that the same methods that worked in the past will work for learners today (Prensky 2001:3). These challenges seem to suggest a misfit between the type of learner today and the manner in which the curriculum is being delivered. This misfit may explain the constant complaint by many educators that learners find the classroom boring. Prensky too, highlights the misfit between digital natives and their digital immigrant teachers by posing the following question: 'Today's learners are different. Is it that Digital Natives can't pay attention, or that they choose not to?' (Prensky 2001:4).

Educators today need to reconsider both the content and methodology in their classrooms. Children born into any new culture learn a 'new language' easily. Therefore teachers have to learn to communicate in the language and style that best suits their learners. That does not necessarily mean changing the meaning of what is important or excluding the traditional curriculum. But as educators of the 21st century we need to adapt materials to the language of Digital Natives. …

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