“When you grow up, you won’t be walking around everywhere with a calculator in your pocket, so you’d better learn this!” How many of us heard some version of that statement as justification for the rote memorization of times tables, or the endless repetition of problem sets? I know I did. But we ARE carrying calculators in our pockets now, aren’t we? My iPhone is never more than 5 feet away, and it’s not only a calculator, but a portal to access the collective knowledge of the entire human race for all of history. Take that, 3rd grade teacher!
It’s certainly convenient, and is having a huge impact on the way we teach. Once Google Glass rolls out to consumers (and within a few years becomes as ubiquitous as the iPhone), we’re going to see an even stronger reaction from students to that old school (pun intended) mentality. What possible justification, after all, could we have for requiring students to memorize the names of all fifty state capitals, when they will be able to, with a quick voice command, bring up the state capitals, and state birds, and state flowers, etc.? I’m not envisioning many scenarios in which your future-specs have stopped functioning, but knowledge of Topeka, Kansas is critical (residents of Topeka, feel free to argue with me on this one).
Why would we waste precious teaching and learning time on learning knowledge that requires zero critical thinking, and to which immediate access will only become easier as technology improves? We need to shift focus to teaching students how to think, how to problem solve, how to collaborate, how to analyze, how to synthesize, how to create, how to design.
The Common Core Standards are beginning to address this, by incorporating new media literacy skills into the standards, but a set of standards isn’t sufficient. Every teacher needs to be given professional development and/or support to help them create ways to prepare students for a future in which it isn’t encyclopedic knowledge that is valued, but the ability to think and communicate in innovative and dynamic ways. Instead, we’re throwing money down the drain on standardized tests, which encourage exactly the kind of teaching we don’t want, and creating students that the future doesn’t need.
I wish I could say that teachers are already teaching the future, but my own experience, as well as the research, shows that, by and large, they’re not. In fact, a recent study of teachers, librarians, and administrators showed that “keyboarding is a high priority among many educators at all levels within the district.” Keyboarding. I’ll let you take a moment for that to sink in.
Ready? Ok, let’s continue.
We, as a profession, are standing on the precipice of irrelevance; drilling formulas into someone’s head, aside from being unnecessary, can now be done by a computer, and much better than you or I could. If we can’t shift our focus to creating the learner of the future, then, as the late Arthur C. Clarke stated “Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be.”
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone