Can K-12 Digital Signage Teach Digital Natives? | Chapter 1

Digital signage isn’t a new concept for K-12 schools. In lobbies, libraries and cafeterias, K-12 digital signage has been used to great effect to communicate with students and faculty. These digital signs are being widely used for announcements, navigational assistance and to relay critical emergency protocols.

This same technology can be used inside the classroom to engage digital natives. It is bridging the generation gap between students and teachers, and improving the educational experience for everyone involved.

In this first chapter of a three-blog series exploring the K-12 digital signage ecosystem, we’ll explore the student vs. teacher dynamic, why this relationship is suffering, and why technology is the lubricant that’ll reduce the friction between both worlds.

The “New School” vs “Old School”

Today’s students aptly dubbed “digital natives,” grew up in a digital world of constant stimulation and instant gratification. The words “waiting patiently” aren’t in their vocabulary and they consider sitting through relatively long and boring lectures a tedious chore.

Digital natives are used to being plugged in, perpetually connected. From television mobile, and video games to the Internet and social media, their entire existence is wrapped up in digital devices. The numbers are overwhelming: digital natives have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading but more than 20,000 hours playing video games and 10,000 hours watching television.

Where students of yesteryear were accustomed to sitting down with a good book, today’s students are more at home online, in front of the television or playing video games. In order to truly reach these digital natives, educators must find a way to plug into their “network” and reach them on their own terms.

Unfortunately, not everyone is equipped to do so…

Old World Educators Not so “Old” Anymore

Today’s technology is constantly evolving, and while digital natives feel at home with the rapid-fire arrival of new digital platforms and media, earlier generations tend to lag behind. Where digital natives take an “out with the old, in with the new” approach to technology, educators aren’t as quick to abandon once-proven methods, even when they’ve proven to be outdated.

That being said, a growing number of educators are starting to embrace technological advances. PEW Research Center surveyed 2,462 Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers, and found that:

  • 94% own a cell phone
  • 58% own a smartphone
  • 93% own a laptop
  • 87% own a desktop
  • 39% own a tablet
  • 78% use social networking sites

Despite this obvious engagement with technology, 42% of these teachers still feel that their students have a better understanding of digital tools than they do.


A Digitally Enhanced Generation Gap

While many educators have embraced the tools of the digital world, those tools are still somewhat foreign to them. They don’t have the inherent understanding of technology that has been bred into digital natives. They don’t quite speak the same language. Something is lost in the translation.

While teachers acknowledge the usefulness of digital tools, they don’t always use those tools to their advantage, and instead push forward with the tried-and-once-true methods that don’t always work. This creates a disconnect in the classroom. Interest wanes, engagement suffers and students ultimately tune out. No one wins.

Bridging the Gap

Today’s students think and process information differently from their predecessors and so educational standards and teaching methods must evolve in order to really teach them. Just as older educators are apt to resist learning new technologies, digital natives are apt to rejecting old concepts and outdated ideas. Forcing students to devolve with outdated methods is a disservice to everyone.

Educators must learn to communicate in the language of the land. Only by integrating digital tools into the classroom can educators create the level of excitement and engagement they desire from students.

It’s important to keep in mind that what needs to change for today’s students is not the content or material being taught, but the delivery and presentation of the information. Today’s student won’t abide plodding, step-by-step tutorials and long-winded lectures. Their world moves fast and they can handle information in greater quantities and at greater speeds. It’s what they expect, and it’s what keeps them engaged.

So the challenge for educators — and the key to bridging this ever-growing generation gap — is to find a way to adapt and repurpose essential educational content so that it can be communicated in the language of the digital native. Digital signage for education provides the solution.

K-12 Digital Signage Makes the Transition Easy

K-12 digital signage rolls technologies of computers, projectors and interactive whiteboards into one compact, easy-to-use system. It provides a level of versatility unseen with previous technologies. For example, digital signage can be used to:

  • Show educational programming in the classroom
  • Show and compare classroom assignments
  • Provide critical information, such as quiz announcements and upcoming due dates
  • Enhance previously mundane presentations with visual content, such as animations or video
  • Source web content through digital signage apps and content widgets
  • Engage in virtual field trips

Chapter two of this series will discuss the classroom uses for K-12 digital signage in more detail, but the key takeaway here is that digital signage enables educators to provide students with visual, auditory and kinesthetic stimulation. In other words, K-12 digital signage allows teachers to communicate with students in their native language — digital.

A Step Towards the Future

The advantages of using digital signage in schools are numerous. It’s a reliable, scalable technology that actually resonates with students. It provides an easy-to-use means of connecting older educators to their much more digitally adept students. With K-12 digital signage in the classroom, educators and students can speak the same language.

Leveraging the power of K-12 digital signage in the classroom is a step toward the future of education.

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