Over the next several years Primary and Second level education has an opportunity to broaden its horizons over computer usage in schools. As newly qualified teachers arrive into the education system it gives the education system an enormous opportunity to adapt to the changing face of internet and computer usage. The influx of digital natives otherwise known as Generation Y or simply as Millennials gives us a chance to really expand our computer usage in schools and bridge the gap between second and third level education which is more technologically focused.

The term Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants was coined back in 2001 by Marc Prensky in an article. Digital Natives were children who grew up since the early 1980s and generally had access to computers and later the internet while growing up. Digital immigrants were the reverse as they grew up prior to 1980 and generally had no access to computers and had to adapt to such technology in later years.

As more and more Digital Native educators enter the system it allows a shift of balance in how all education can be effected. By far the biggest improvement that can be managed is in computer classes who until recently focused on just Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint and the core of the ECDL (European Computer Driving License) can now expand upon this and teach students programming and database fundamentals as well as some computer design focused areas.  Some educators have already begun by introducing such systems such as Coder Dojo to teach children the basic concepts of computer programming. This is a recent concept that has gained large scale interest and is rapidly expanding.

All aspects of second level education can be adapted to include some use of computer literacy such as using OneDrive, Google Drive, Moodle and TurnItIn for class schedules and homework submissions. This allows students access to access vital learning material at all times and teaches them computer proficiency also. Some schools have integrated this by giving all students an email address and access to such services already but it is sporadically used. There is an opportunity to shift the focus from traditional learning from books to students using services such as Lynda.com or Google Scholar to research topics for themselves. Of course we cannot replace books entirely as their valuable information still proves to be key but it gives an opportunity to learn from more than one source which can prevent bias and proof in concept that there can be a more fluid and open way of learning new information rather than having a rigid approach.

Newly built schools generally have larger computer labs and better equipment than retro fitted institutions to help spearhead this advance in technological learning. Some schools have taken this a step further by introducing a scheme where all students must have an iPad or a laptop for their studies. This encourages students to use computers as part of their daily lives and also is proactive in creating a specialist digital industry that most Countries strive for. I believe it is of fundamental importance for students who leave second level education to be proficient in computer usage as a lot of high skilled jobs now require some level of computer experience.

The Irish education system prides itself on having a highly skilled and computer literate workforce upon students leaving school but this may not always be the case. New technologies are constantly being developed regularly and it is important that educators embrace these new technologies with open arms so that students can gain the best possible outcome from learning. It is integral to the youth of today to be in tune with the latest technologies and to be able to work with them. As more and more industries begin to rely upon good computer skills it is an issue that is not going away. The education system has to adapt to these new technologies or face being left behind by other nations education systems.

Digital natives and digital immigrants both share this responsibility and it is key that they work together to create a brighter future for students. The upcoming #ictedu conference aims to combat this by outlining the importance of technology in education. For more information search for #ictedu on Facebook or Twitter. For more information about the ictedu conference please check the website: http://www.lit.ie/ictedu . Tickets for the conference can be obtained here: http://www.eventbrite.ie/e/ict-in-education-conference-2015-tickets-16119711491

Written by Stephen Murphy, Creative Multimedia student in Limerick Institute of Technology, Clonmel, helping to promote #ICTEDU , along with his team Eleanor Laleu and Jack Dunne.

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