“Pundits may be asking if the Internet is bad for our children’s mental development, but the better question is whether the form of learning and knowledge-making we are instilling in our children is useful to their future.”
No, we are not; as the author of this wonderful article in the New York Times states: “
The contemporary American classroom, with its grades and deference to the clock, is an inheritance from the late 19thcentury (idem).
We teach to the clock and we teach to the grades, no doubt about it. As I have mentioned in previous articles, desks, classrooms, 50 minute periods (or 90) marked by the annoying bell, and even the traditional lecture are all teaching tools from the past. The author also indicates quite wisely that the Industrial Revolution gave us machines that had to run according to a very tight schedule and very exact specifications. We are still teaching our students as if they were going to work in factories, just like their ancestors from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Do we know?
Do we know what kind of jobs will be available 25 years from now? Haven’t we witnessed the most amazing transformation since 1980 from the Industrial Age to the Information Technology Era? Every year, the amount of technical information doubles, giving birth to all kinds of new technologies..and new types of jobs.
Emerging technologies in general denote significant technology developments that broach new territory in some significant way in their field. Examples of currently emerging technologies include information technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology, cognitive science, robotics, and artificial intelligence (Wikipedia)
New jobs merge in these fields, from lab research to computer software, from new communication tools (think military) to sophisticated machinery in modern factories. The Internet or World Wide Web is taking more and more of our time, whether to play of to work. And yet, most schools still see the Internet as an enemy to learning, a tool to be used very sparsely and very carefully.
I have students who do research (without the classroom teacher’s knowledge) on their smart phones; they look up dictionaries, antonyms and synonyms, world capitals and math formulas. The more fortunate do it on their tablets, one of the most wonderful teaching tools I have ever seen.
There is no doubt that many teachers are afraid of these modern tools; what if the student proves them wrong by citing a historical site that they found on the Internet, or by finding a different definition for a technical word, or by exhibiting the teacher’s ignorance? I say ‘Wonderful’ or ‘ Wunderbar’ or Magnifique‘! Let them correct the teacher! We must be mature enough to accept criticism and the fact that we don’t know everything. Besides, that is the essence of learning by discussing back and forth the topics of the curriculum. Dangers on the Internet? Of course, but modern technology can easily protect the kids from accessing the wrong website (as if they hadn’t already done it nowadays).
Globalization is here to stay, no matter what politicians decry as a loss of American jobs to foreign countries. Their workers have often shown to be more skilled and better prepared than ours. Our schools must face the future with courage and imagination so that our kids can learn how to succeed in whatever new jobs future society will offer.