Another dot in the blogosphere?

What paper? Why paper?

Posted on: March 1, 2014

Newspaper by KC Toh, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  KC Toh 

Earlier this week my son informed me that his teacher told him to bring a newspaper article to school.

I reminded him that we do not subscribe to any paper. This has been the case in his decade on Earth and well before that when we were living overseas. The only papers we got were the ones that wrapped fish or those that were stuffed in my inbox at work.

My son told me that his teacher said that we could print out a news article. And the article had to be about an accident. In Singapore.

I obviously have several issues with this.

I can understand the need for a theme (accidents), but the news is not only about accidents. If the theme must be accidents and you want fresh news, then you should learn how to use Twitter, Facebook, or (ugh!) Stomp.

My wife pointed out that the accident need not be a local one. Using a news article on how snow caused road accidents in the normally snowless southern states in the US could provide a more global view of the same theme.

Then there is the need to print an article out. The school refuses to let students bring devices they might already have. I wonder if the teachers realize the messages they are sending intentionally or not.

There is a saying that lessons are often not taught; they are caught. Our kids pick up on behaviours, nuances, and the unsaid. Restricting them to paper tells them that teachers are not current, not willing to change, and part of the problem.

One of my favourite sayings is:

We have 21st century learners being taught by 20th century teachers in 19th century classrooms.

Sometimes it feels like the classrooms are 20th century and the teachers from from the 19th century.

The problem is that many schools and teachers are still stuck in old school mode. Not physically, but mentally. They reinforce what they are comfortable with instead of focusing on what the learners need. They prepare them for the past instead of the present and future.

They also contribute to the problems generated by paper. Think of the raw materials, the cost, the unnecessary human-based processing, the ridiculous combined weight of these papers, etc. We are leaving these paper problems with our kids. Instead of helping them think of new solutions, we tell them that the solution is paper.

Then there is the task itself.

Who was the homework for? The child or the parent? Who searched for the articles, evaluated them for worth, and printed them out?

Imagine if the task was instead described as one where the parent could model behaviours like selecting news sources, logging in to get past a paywall, using search engines, talking out loud during the analysis and evaluation, decision-making, and even how to print.

Is all this too much to ask for?

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