Dr. Heru Keonté, School Principal at John P. Holland Charter School

Dr. Heru Keonté is a middle school principal, serving students in an urban district located in Northern New Jersey. A product of public school education, he is passionate about elevating the scholarship, creativity, and ardor of his students and staff members. Heru previously worked as a middle school language arts teacher for thirteen years before becoming an administrator. He incorporates teamwork, community service, and an open-minded mentality into his instructional leadership.


In the cyber world, our children are the authority figures. They are the trailblazers who effortlessly navigate through the newest innovations and technological trends that are shaping our society. Children adapt to shifts in social media much quicker than adults. They understand and decode cyber programs at a much faster rate than older generations. As information technology advances at warp speeds, it has become overwhelmingly apparent that our children are inevitably becoming more advanced than us. This presents the existential question for educators, “How do we educate and protect our children in a cyber world we know so little about?”

Perhaps, society has always worked this way. Generations are perpetually defined by the cultural dynamics of its youth. Technology has caused a distinctive divide that cannot be merely attributed to traditional generational gaps. Teachers and parents are no longer the primary source of knowledge and information. Social media has eclipsed movies, television, and music videos as an influential source of entertainment for young people. As the internet has become the grand stage for pop culture, teachers must come up with new and innovative ways to make themselves interesting enough to command the attention of their students.

Millions of children today are obsessed with social media. As of 2024, TikTok has well over a billion subscribers. However, there are some cognitive dangers associated with such platforms. Social media use has been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This current generation is accustomed to having everything quick and at their fingertips. Then they lose interest and move to the next clip. Many classrooms have somewhat adapted to this psychological phenomenon with the advent of learning stations. Students move around the classroom and engage in various activities that teach and reinforce skill sets. Self-regulated learning plays an important role in a student’s development and academic performance. Teachers have to relinquish some of the authority that has become customary and allow students to learn on their own and at their own pace. Educators can now simply guide, facilitate and monitor the activities of their students as they journey through websites and search engines.

For perhaps the first time in history, young people from diverse walks of life, find themselves in a position of power within a global economy. They can create, market and sell their own talents and products with virtual autonomy. They still need educators to teach them these valuable skills that will enable them to do so. Quality of life is directly correlated to the standard of education one receives. Classroom teachers have to mold their lessons and assessments for the digital age. The challenge lies with trying to prepare our students for a future few can fathom. Educators have the task of attempting to educate and train students for jobs and careers that don’t exist yet. The technological advances we see today indicate that automation will only grow in the years ahead.

Modern classrooms don’t simply need modern technology. They need teachers who are competent enough to teach them. This means that a degree in education must include a significant amount of technology-based coursework. Information and Communication Technology has to be a mandatory component for training all teachers, both new and experienced. Many seasoned teachers find it difficult to adapt to new trends and innovations but they can’t remain stagnant and anchored in the past.

Our classrooms still provide a platform for teamwork and individual achievement. That much hasn’t changed. Communication and problem-solving skills are as important now as they ever were. Public speaking may offer a bridge to connect social media with the classroom. Instead of simply calling students to the front of the class or having them raise their hands, more students need to be taught to create social media presentations that highlight their knowledge and skill sets. If young people are posting themselves on social media anyway, why not make their academic prowess the focus? As long as teachers are educating themselves on social media technology, everyone can continue to learn about new graphics, special effects, and editing tools. The extent to which schools permit access to these technological breakthroughs would be arbitrary but the impact on confidence and overall ability could be significant. Furthermore, we need to remind our students that everyone does not need to be in front of the camera to be exceptional. Our society has always been stirred by builders and inventors. STEM programs must continue to open young minds to the endless possibilities of science, technology, and math.

Cursive writing has become almost obsolete. Typically, students are taught how to write in cursive in the 2nd or 3rd grade. However, by the fourth grade, students are rarely called upon to put this skill into practice. Because keyboarding and texting have become the dominant nonverbal communication, young people find little to no value in learning cursive. However, without adequate handwriting instructions, students have more difficulty developing reading, writing, memory, and motor skills. There may be another factor educators and policymakers should take into consideration before making classrooms the exclusive home of the keyboard. With the advent of ChatGPT, an original A I-generated essay is accessible to virtually any student with internet access. This presents another argument for handwritten submissions. However, this dynamic also presents new challenges for proponents of homework.

Calculators are now permitted on state mandated exams. The rationale being that computers calculate figures for us in everyday situations, so handwritten calculations are not necessary anymore. Some students reach middle school without being able to read the hands on a clock. It’s becoming increasingly easy to function in society without developing what were once considered basic skills.  So, if computers are doing all the work, why do we need to learn to calculate or solve equations by taking courses like statistics and trigonometry? All we have to do is ask Alexa. The answer may be staring you right in the face. If computers are everywhere, the citizens creating and programming them have all the authority over what we know and what we can do. Critical and analytical thinking are now more important than ever. Inevitably, educators will have to increase their technological knowledge in order to facilitate students. Once upon a time, classrooms across the country taught home economics and wood shop. Now we need to teach students how to build websites. Our students have an insatiable appetite for technology. We have to have the nourishment and recipes to feed them.

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