What matters is now
Posted April 24, 2015on:
This is a video of people on the brink of adulthood who did not know how to rip music from a CD and transfer the soundtracks to a digital music player.
Why? They no longer need this skill because the technology has changed. Within their lifetime digital music has evolved from ripping CDs to downloading MP3s to streaming music from the cloud.
If you asked a representative group of teachers to watch this, how many would demand that CD ripping be part of curriculum? None would because it would sound ridiculous. No one would be up in arms about it the same way they would get emotional about, say, writing in cursive.
We write for a number of reasons, among them to express and to communicate. Some learners find it difficult to overcome basic barriers to writing.
Untidy handwriting is one. If a reader cannot decipher handwriting, the writer cannot be understood. Schools enable that barrier because they do not embrace typing, voice recognition software, or other forms of digital expression.
Another barrier to good communication is poor spelling, grammar, and sentence construction. Modern word processing software and programmes created to assist writers with special needs can reduce or remove this barrier.
However, such basic solutions to relatively low level barriers to writing are not more common in classrooms. Kids are still required to write by hand because schools embrace pen and pencil technology instead of Internet-related technology. Only Finland seems to be moving forward with typing as writing.
No one romanticizes lost skills like milking cows by hand because the vast majority of us do not need to thanks to technology. I would argue that most kids will not need to hand write much or even at all when they are working adults.
They will need to write logically and coherently in non-paper exam contexts. They will need to process huge amounts of information in a very short time and work with very different people they might have never met in person. They will need better and new written communication skills. How many schools refocus curricula to these?
What I just described is not a future scenario; it is already happening and needed now. What holds us back is our perspective of the problem.
Adults and teachers often look at things through the lens of “in my time” nostalgia. Nostalgia is like grammar: It makes the past perfect and the present tense.
The past is certain because we already know already happened. It is also rose-tinted and rose-scented because our memories are biased. The future might seem uncertain, but that is only the case if we choose not to shape it now.
In twenty years, we will look back at schooling. Will we wonder why we had to do the equivalent of ripping CDs or will that still be the norm? Or might we be enjoying the fruits of sowing and harvesting from the cloud?