Today’s youngest learners are digital natives and practically ‘hard-wired’ to acquire knowledge through technology-infused learning.

With an increasing need for meaningful connections between digital natives, the framework of teaching and learning in educational settings is at a crossroads. The basic structure and standardization of curricula can’t become any less engaging, exciting, or less relevant, according to our learners. We must catch up to the 21st Century.

Digital natives, this new generation of learners, feel an unwavering need to reach out to their global communities,’friends’, and post their real-time activities, social life updates, related thoughts and ideas. This need to communicate through social networks is followed by a need for feedback- affirmation, ‘likes’, and some new information from their digital peers. All of this happens through their devices. That is a reality! Society has not been known to ‘roll back’ on technological advances! People who are ‘out of touch’ resist.  Why are we still resisting? Best response: Adapt, adjust and move forward! 

Formal education was framed as the preparer for the future and the world of work…. originally for select groups. Public education was to transition youngsters into an industrialized economy by arming them with ‘relevant’ tools and skills to successfully navigate life. Actually, by 14 years of age, youth were expected to join the workforce. But, that doesn’t reflect today’s climate.

Life is successfully navigated within a global, technology and information-driven society.

Without elaborating, the institution of public education still remains an inequitably framed system-separate and still unequal. Acknowledging these truths, though, is vital to making education both relevant and equitable. Despite the effectively perpetuated racial separation, and resulting divisiveness in the U.S., an undeniable cultural fusion is taking place.

woman wearing yellow sleeveless dress

Traditional African-American music genres,  fashion trends and even certain physiological traits have been ‘misappropriated’ by non-minority groups.  These culturally-derived, culturally-driven or inherently cultural ‘attributes’ have become mainstream, not marginalized.

One can’t help but wonder why schools haven’t tapped into this new globalism? The reality is that across racial, cultural and ethnic lines, youth are becoming more and more connected. Black or white, urban, suburban and rural kids are all listening to the same music, dressing alike, using similar slang, and communicating via the same social  platforms.

This is what interests and engages youngsters today, and also what excites them. There is an inherent need and deep motivation to socially engage and to communicate with others in the world. And of course, FOMO[fear of missing out].

Where is education in all of this? Where’s the research and data-informed pedagogy? Where’s the strategically-inclusive relevance, restorative practices, tolerance and respect for diversity?

To be most effective as THE purveyors of knowledge, past and present, looking to the future, education must reframe instructional delivery. Context and content must be aligned with the real world. Craft SEL learning with opportunities for imagining a society– fully collaborative and respectful of diversity!

Equity is not optional in education services delivery systems; it is mandatory! Every education professional must hold him or herself accountable to ensure equity becomes an established instructional norm. In the learning environment, each educator within and responsible for each classroom setting, must establish equity for learners.

When more educators establish equity, there is organizational change and evidence-based best practices  align with perspectives and policies. It takes but one match to spark flames that spread like wildfire.

To begin raising the bar, here are five critical tasks:

#1-Coach the parent on positive ways to leverage teachable moments both in and outside of school.

#2-Empower the parent with the delivery of usable knowledge, as allied advocates for the child.

#3- Reach out to parents to learn, not complain, about the child, and let that guide your teaching strategies.

#4- Arm and equip yourselves with  real-world culturally relevant resources. Be prepared to show students that they matter, are acknowledged, and ‘belong’.

#5- NEVER PREACH– to the child or parent.This only falls upon ‘deaf’ ears. People become defensive and shut themselves off to that type of communication, especially children.

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Messages, no matter how well-intended, are rarely, if     ever, received effectively. Share anecdotes, tell stories. Always lead by example with consistency. Both child and parent need to know that they can count on you.

The important person is the student. Anything that the parent can do to help the student improve is worth doing and should be acknowledged. Emphasis should be on effective ways of helping children, families, and schools work together to provide constant, consistent and continuous opportunities for the entire school community to perform at their best.

It is very clear that any parental involvement is beneficial to a child’s academic achievement and the comprehensive growth process. Parental engagement also benefits teachers, the school, the parents and the entire home community, as well as other children in the family.

  EVERYTHING possible should be done by the school system to encourage parents to become involved. Get creative, but stay relevant and respectful at all times. This is especially true of the principal, the driving force of the school. It is his or her leadership that will guide the teachers by placing targeted emphasis on the importance of parental involvement.

man in black and white polo shirt beside writing board
Digital natives also want to engage in the classroom!

We’re not finished yet! There’s more to do to fulfill the promise of public education for every child in these United States.  Please share your thoughts. Every voice counts. Do include yours!

[Growth, like learning, never ends.]

…to be continued.

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Published by JaDonnia

An education and counseling professional, I focus my expertise on diversity, inclusion and family engagement/empowerment Of particular importance is the partnerships between parents and the community schools that serve their children. Highlighting strategies, tips and evidence-based best practices for family engagement, my aim is to alter mindsets, broaden perspectives, foster empathy, and build capacity. Offering 'food for thought' and inviting discussion, I tell truths rarely explored-to both educators and families. A holistic culturally-responsive approach to teaching, learning and engaging others begins with respect. I promote respect and fully integrating curricular diversity in formal learning settings! Collaboration with families is necessary, because parents hold the master key that unlocks doors to child health and wellness, academic achievement, and believe it or not, teacher excellence and stronger school communities.

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