Did you know that Kodak has essentially gone out of business because they bet against digital cameras? There are other companies that are laying at the side of the road because they gambled that future technologies would not catch on and their way of doing business would continue.
Schools today are at a similar crossroad. What will next-generation learning look like? Before we can have that conversation, we have to figure out how to move on from our past. Let me explain.
Last week I had a visitor who shared a concern that students today are not learning their math facts, reading or how to write. She wondered if we were graduating illiterate children.
First up, I disagreed with her. Sure, some students do not know what 9 times 7 equals. There are high schoolers who cannot make change without a cash register. Shoot, there are adults, lots of them, who cannot make change without a cash register. Lacking these skills does not make a child illiterate.
Second, I visited a number of classrooms the next morning. Many classes were doing math. Some in fourth grade were working with fractions; another class was working on geometry skills. In two situations I leaned in to help a student understand a problem. I asked them some math facts, smaller number multiplication and addition, and they got them right.
The day before I visited the Middle School and took on several students reviewing their math facts. The challenge was multiplication flashcards. Students knew the answers. Sure, they took longer for some problems than others, just like years ago.
When I shared with my visitor that students did not need to memorize math facts and state capitals – as did many of us – due to technology, she was quick to point out they would be lost without the technology. What would happen if the technology no longer worked? For the answer, see paragraph one above. The technology is not going to go away. If anything, it will get better.
Sure, a large EMP (electromagnetic pulse) could cause a serious disruption to all of our technology. However, if that happens we are all in trouble regardless if you can make change.
Perhaps one of the challenges for us older folks is to recognize that learning is changing. Regardless of what we think about yesterday, we are not going back there. Let’s work together to help students move forward. Let’s identify what skills they need and teach them.
Just some food for thought!