The Learning Curve & Technology


I had a discussion with co-workers today regarding the state of education.  Last week on my morning trek after the gym to enjoy my first coffee of the day, I got into a conversation with a couple of regulars that I see quite often.  Richard is a retired school teacher.  I mentioned an ad that I saw on TV promoting the latest iPad or something along those lines where a young woman looks at the camera smiling and says, “I learned how to type before I learned how to read.”

The statement doesn’t make much in the way of sense, now does it?  How can you type if you don’t know what words you are creating?  If you are telling me that you simply knew how to bang away on the keys, okay.  That does not mean you necessarily know how to type.  Understanding the language and typing go hand in hand I would think.

In any case Richard informed me that in Calgary,  Alberta he had heard that they were looking at removing the courses for Elementary students to learn conventional hand writing skills and spelling.  All of this is now readily available via the internet and computer programs.  Why teach the conventional method?

This saddened me to some degree.  Having gone to school and learned the traditional way and then being introduced to the computer age as well as having a daughter who was attending school as computers were first being introduced,  I really believe we need to offer our students all options.  Being a writer, one of the things I love is writing long hand.  I get caught up in it.  The flow of thought erupting onto the page, the creative process forming new thoughts, new ideas and new angles.  The story blossoming in the grey matter and being transferred rapidly to the page.

One co-worker, who is an architect, said it is much the same with drawing.  There is a connect to the creative process that just does not happen when sitting at a keyboard.  I can say with all honesty that I am transported to a very different mind frame when I am writing long hand.

So my question is just because we have the technology to tell a child if their spelling is correct or not and the use of hand writing seems somehow archaic, should we not still provide them with these skills?  If all electrical power ceased to exist, then what?  When a child is learning these skills their brain is developing certain cognitive reasoning abilities.  Neuro pathways are forming and a deeper understanding of the language is evolving.

We now have serious issues regarding plagiarism and cheating on essays and exams on the university level.  There are actually companies out there that will in fact do the student’s paper for them, at a cost of course.  But what is the cost of  handing out degrees to young people who have not earned them.  And they are going out into the workplace to do what with it?

When I was younger there was something extremely gratifying once the teacher gave us a book report to do, or a project to work on. Going up to the local library to do research is something I really looked forward to.  I used to love using the encyclopaedia, of using reference materials that were listed.  The process of developing a report into a cohesive piece of  literature that addressed the topic at hand was something that gave me an inordinate amount of skills.  I learned how to do research, how to take notes, how to give structure to the piece of work I was developing and how to manage time, etc.  And we were graded on all of these factors as well.

Now everything is available at the touch of a button.  No need to think through your timeline for this.  No thought about presentation as templates are available freely for just about everything.  No worries about neat handwriting as everything is typed into a word document then printed off.  No need to check spelling as we have spelling and grammar check built into our program.  If we want to add graphics to the cover page we can download any number of ready-made graphics, or if we are savvy enough, we can create our own.

I’m not saying that having this technology is a bad thing.  I just feel that students should be provided with all the tools that are available and handwriting and spelling in the conventional manner I believe is a skill everyone should be taught.  One of my co-workers told me about her seven-year old daughter who is learning to ‘surf the net’ at school as it is now as part of the curriculum.

Perhaps I am being a little old-fashioned, but I know the benefits of technology as well as conventional education and not giving all of this to the next generation somehow seems like a rip-off to me.  There is something that is almost magical that happens when I am writing longhand and I am in the zone.  The creative process is stimulated in a way that does not occur in the same manner when I am sitting at my keyboard.

I do hope these methods will continue to be afforded to students and that the creative process will continue to evolve and flourish in them.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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