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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra.
The challenge of educating in the digital era
In earlier times, generations were defined by reference letter to relevant historical or social events. Lately they are defined by the use of a new technology. For example, artificial intelligence, intelligent applications, robotics. On the other hand, the distance between generations is getting shorter and shorter.
Children born since 2010 (the year Apple first launched the iPad) are members of Generation Alpha, the first fully digital generation. It is the continuation of other partially digital generations: Generation Z (born between 1994 and 2010) and the Millennials (born between 1981 and 1993). Marc Prensky, American pedagogue, designated these children as "digital natives" in a article published in 2001. He was referring to the generations that have grown up in a context of cell phones, computers, tablets and video game consoles.
The Alpha generation is way ahead of the previous ones when it comes to digital technology skills. Its components do not understand the world without it and follow the trends of their favorite youtubers and influencers. They were born into a world where electronic gadgets were used as a matter of course, so for them that world is the only one that counts; they have not had to adapt to it from a pre-digital or analog context.
In a conversation between an Alpha child and his mother, the latter replies: "No, my son, we didn't download you from the Internet. You were born. These are children who relate to others mainly digitally. Digital is the name given to the device that provides the data by digits. For chatting they have their codes. For example, TEH: I'll wait for you today; NFC: I didn't go to class; DLA: leave me the notes. Some older people find it very practical, so they are imitating them: EEM: at the doctor; EFA: at a friend's funeral; TSR: bring me the wheelchair.
Several programs of study show that children of the Alpha generation will play, learn and interact in completely new ways. They will encounter increasingly intelligent electronic devices and where the physical and the digital merge into a single reality. Ludi Garcia, director of Hotwire Spain, argues that technology can no longer be seen as a form of cheap entertainment, but as a tool to help them achieve a better future. But, along with new possibilities, members of Generation Alpha also present new problems.
They are children and/or teenagers very dependent on their cell phones connected to the Internet, so they are at risk of being addicted and have personality disorders. A graphic humor drawing expresses this in an unsurpassable way. In a psychiatric enquiry the specialist is seen listening to what a mobile (mutated adolescent) lying on the couch says: "Sometimes I feel that so much technology is depersonalizing me".
Joe Nellis (British professor of global Economics , 1981) explains that Alpha children are children who have less interaction through narrative stories and less language exchange , which causes language pathologies to emerge. Interactive games will supplant traditional games and reading. Generation Alpha will also be an increasingly alienated generation, because its members will be isolated from reality. They will be very individualistic children and adolescents, who almost only interact through the Internet.
What subject from Education do Alpha children and adolescents require? Prensky warns that today's students are no longer the subject people our educational system was designed for. He adds that "digital immigrants"-the majority of teachers-should change their methods. Given the vast amount of information that students find for themselves on the Internet, it does not make sense for teachers to remain the main content providers; their role will be to teach how to think and learn in a participatory and dialogical way, on the occasion of the content .
Children should be allowed to experience risk and failure; they should be allowed to solve their own problems: this helps them to develop critical capacity and responsibility. Parents should educate their children in the reality that surrounds them and not only in the virtuality they see on the screens. Teachers must invent new ways of teaching. There is a need to learn to communicate with digital natives in their language. All these shortcomings in the training professor facing the new reality of digital natives are matters of inquiry interest in the research educational . Educating in the digital era has become an exciting challenge for parents and teachers.