A digital world is a place where information can be created, manipulated, disseminated, received and stored at anytime, by anyone, and at almost no cost. Digital technologies enable people to explore and express their identity, develop friendships, collaborate, learn, play games and exercise autonomy like never before. Living in a digital world means using digital technologies to mediate activity of all kinds – from entertainment and social interaction, to education and commerce. This new reality has resulted in the Australian Curriculum introducing Digital Technologies as a core curriculum learning area (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], n.d., a), and the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a general capability (ACARA, n.d., b) to be incorporated into all key learning areas from Foundation to Year 10.
The Australian Curriculum reflects The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (Ministerial Council for Employment Education, Training and Youth Affairs [MCEETYA], 2008) that recognised the need to build the capacity of Australian students to thrive in an knowledge-based society (Howell, 2012):
Rapid and continuing advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) are changing the ways people share, use, develop and process information and technology. In this digital age, young people need to be highly skilled in the use of ICT. While schools already employ these technologies in learning, there is a need to increase their effectiveness significantly over the next decade.
(MCEETYA, 2008, p.5)
The key to adequately preparing learners for life in a digital world is to transform their often-passive interaction and consumption into participative collaboration, and to foster the critical thinking skills needed to support learning (Bennett, Maton & Kervin, 2008). Thomson (2015) reports that teachers tend to lack effective professional learning resources or incentives to incorporate ICT use in their teaching. There is also a continuing debate regarding how being immersed in a technology-rich culture has shaped the skills and interests of students (Bennett, Maton & Kervin, 2008). So, while students might be highly connected and capable of accessing digital communication technologies and media such as the Internet, Facebook and YouTube, the 21st century skills necessary to cope in a digital world must be learnt in a developmental and structured way from teachers possessing appropriate knowledge and pedagogies (White, 2013).
Digitally enabled learning experiences are engaging and compelling, especially if the personalisation potential of technology is realised (Project Tomorrow, 2011). The Secondary Mathematics curriculum (ACARA, n.d., c) already integrates some digital technologies such as graphing calculators and spreadsheets. There is much greater potential for using online dynamic geometry software such as GeoGebra to represent problems symbolically, numerically, and graphically (Handal, Campbell, Cavanagh, Petocz & Kelly, 2013); social networks such as Facebook to create a community of learners (Fewkes, & McCabe, 2012); and, interactive video distribution platforms such as EDpuzzle to implement the flipped classroom teaching model (Martin, 2016). Mathspace offers adaptive feedback to learners and provides teachers with a granular view of student learning (Bender, 2013).
Exposure to a rich and varied set of digital tools and resources provides students with new learning experiences that can extend beyond the classroom. The Digital Technologies (ACARA, n.d., a) subject explicitly addresses computational thinking and the use of digital systems and data, spanning representation, abstraction, algorithmic design, fundamental programming, requirements analysis and cultural impacts of technology. This focus places Mathematics teachers as some of the best placed to deliver the content of this new learning area (Falkner, Vivian & Falkner, 2014). By developing computational thinking, logic and problem-solving capabilities, students will be able to grasp a wider range of digital technologies, and be in a better position to adapt to the emerging technologies in a increasingly digital world.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (n.d., a). The Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies – Rationale. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/technologies/digital-technologies/rationale
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (n.d., b). The Australian Curriculum: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/information-and-communication-technology-capability/introduction/
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (n.d., c). The Australian Curriculum: Mathematics. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/mathematics/curriculum/f-10
Bender A. (2013). Australian startup snapshot: Mathspace. Techworld Australia, March 25th.
Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British journal of educational technology, 39(5), 775-786.
Falkner, K., Vivian, R., & Falkner, N. (2014). The Australian digital technologies curriculum: challenge and opportunity. In Proceedings of the Sixteenth Australasian Computing Education Conference-Volume 148 (pp. 3-12). Australian Computer Society, Inc.
Fewkes, A. M., & McCabe, M. (2012). Facebook: Learning tool or distraction? Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28(3), 92-98.
Howell, J. (2012). Teaching with ICT: Digital pedagogies for collaboration and creativity. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Handal, B., Campbell, C., Cavanagh, M., Petocz, P., & Kelly, N. (2013). Technological pedagogical content knowledge of secondary mathematics teachers. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 13(1), 22-40.
Masters, E. (2016). The Next Generation Digital Classroom. Retrieved from http://ngdcrrisd.blogspot.in
Martin, M. (2016). Blending Instruction with Technology: A Blueprint for Teachers to Create Unique, Engaging, and Effective Learning Experiences. Rowman & Littlefield.
Ministerial Council for Employment Education, Training and Youth Affairs [MCEETYA]. (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Melbourne: MCEETYA. Retrived from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/National_Declaration_on_the_Educational_Goals_for_Young_Australians.pdf
Project Tomorrow (2011). Speak Up 2010 National Findings: K-12 Students & Parents. Irvine, CA: Project Tomorrow. Retrieved from http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/pdfs/SU10_3EofEducation%28Students%29.pdf
Thomson, S. (2015). Australian Students in a Digital World. Melbourne: ACER.
White, G. K. (2013). Digital fluency: Skills necessary for learning in the digital age. Melbourne: ACER.