What skills must teachers learn to teach digital-age students?

9th Oct 2018
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In the digital age, teachers need to keep up with evolving technology, know what digital tools are best suited to their students, and use them effectively in their classrooms.

Despite all the sophisticated modern technology that helps educators impart knowledge, it is a teacher’s personal touch that holds the key to unlocking the remarkable potential in every student. Even today, the quality of teaching contributes the most to a student’s success in school. The role of teachers, therefore, is more important than ever before.

Students of today are gearing up to become global citizens of tomorrow. They are living in a highly-advanced digital age, where the cyber world has superimposed itself upon the real world. The internet and social media have made the world smaller and flatter and transformed mindsets and belief systems.

It comes as no surprise then that the processes and trends of education are being transformed dramatically.

In such a scenario, teachers have no option but to evolve as well. They must update themselves to the modern, thinking-oriented global processes of education if they wish to continue inspiring young minds and equip them with skills that can be valuable in the future.

Somewhere, it is also the responsibility of educational institutes to ensure that teachers engage in continuous professional learning and apply that learning to enhance student achievement.

The pertinent question, however, is: how can teachers evolve? What are the requisite professional development skills for teaching digital-age students?

Let’s enumerate some of them.

Only when teachers acquire contemporary, avant-garde knowledge and new, innovative tools of teaching can they impart 21st-century education appropriately. And this is easily possible now, thanks to highly specialised education academies (both classroom-oriented and online) with comprehensively-structured modules of training for teachers to upgrade their teaching skills.

Digital tools are constantly changing the manner in which teachers teach and students learn. Teachers need to keep up with evolving technology, know what digital tools are best suited to their students, and use them effectively in their classrooms. Virtual reality classrooms, for example, are a state-of-the-art tool that can allow students to experience the entire world from within the confines of the classroom.

How good a teacher’s communication skills are can make all the difference to a student’s mental and academic growth. Not all students learn in the same way. Some are naturally gifted while others learn slowly. Some students need to learn in a different way. That is where augmented communication skills can prove to be invaluable.

Handling student issues in a sensitive manner and finding novel ways to overcome their learning challenges also calls for out-of-the-box thinking and a well-honed ability to adapt. The ability to adapt to any and every situation is a crucial skill for modern teachers.

To help students overcome their shortcomings and learn efficiently requires critical thinking. Teachers have to deal with deadlines and balance the discipline of the classroom with a sensitive approach to students’ needs. That requires critical thinking. They need to resolve conflicts between students. That also requires critical thinking. In short, critical thinking abilities need to be high on the list of professional skills for teachers.

At the same time, teachers must also have the expertise to help students think critically, be innovative and creative, and sharpen their problem-solving skills.

This clearly indicates that the role of the modern teacher encompasses that of the mentor, much like the guru-shishya equation in ancient times. As mentors, teachers must patiently guide students into understanding their own selves and identities better. They must be able to help students identify their goals and assist them in devising practical strategies to achieve those goals. They must have the know-how to encourage students in developing effective coping mechanisms that will prepare them for any challenges they may face when they step into the real world to find their individual niches and voices.

It is a teacher’s job to imbibe values and disciplines, and look after the emotional well-being of students. Kids are fragile and easily afflicted by behavioural, emotional, learning, or mental disorders. The processes by which we prepare our teachers for 21st-century education must also focus on elevating their emotional intelligence. This will allow them to understand, control, and express their emotions better, and handle inter-personal relationships with their students more empathetically.

One can conclude that to empower digital-age students with cutting-edge knowledge and skills, teachers must empower themselves first. They need to enhance their skillsets to global levels and become passionate knowledge-givers who can shape minds and ignite imaginations of future generations.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.) 

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