Mark Prensky brings up an interesting notion in his piece, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” suggesting that education systems are failing because of the divide between educators’ and students’ experience with and “nativity” to the digital world. In my experiences as both a student and as an educator (-to-be, wink wink), the most valuable and transferable skills imparted by a successful educational system could be taught with a hammer and chisel.
This goes for any subject, and particularly English/ Language Arts. Critical thinking, critical reading skills, reasoning, compare/contrast analysis will always be skills requisite not only for academia, but for overall life-preparedness. Furthermore, I think that they are extremely transferable. If you can assess a sound argument in print, you can do it in type; if you can calculate the interest on your credit card bill by hand, you can certainly get a calculator to do it for you; if you patiently observe the change in amphibian population in your local pond over time, an online population simulator might augment your experience, but would not replace its value, nor, surely, its meaning. The examples are proliferate.
Ultimately, while Prensky’s suggestion for a curricular change may come to take favor among policy-makers, it will not come to pass for a few years at least. Similarly, most schools have abouta 15-1 student-to-computer ratio, at best. I’ve literally broken up near-fistfights between teachers squabbling over the last available slot in April to sign up for 15 seven year old lap-tops with missing keys. I say we kick it old-school, and teach thinking however we can, as best we can.
Oh, and Microsoft Word’s spell-check is breaking writing. 9th graders today look at me like I’m nuts when I advise them to “sound it out”.