Continuous Improvement ≠ Transformational Innovation (or, 5 Things We Must Do To Improve Education) – Reading, Writing and “Teching”: Part 4 of 5

You may think the title of this article has the word “teaching” spelled incorrectly.  That assumption would be incorrect.  “Teching” was a termed coined in the early video game era, but some folks started to use it regarding the increasing utilization of technology.

Today, most children “tech” for enjoyment…alright, young adults do too, as evidenced by the explosive growth in gaming.  Older adults also enjoy playing games on the computers.  If you don’t believe that, walk into casino and try to find a slot machine that isn’t an electronic video game.

While technology is making its way into the classroom, there are still an abundance of textbook publishers that create curricular materials to foster student learning.  School students read novels and short stories because they’re part of their assignments for English class.  A book is still the most popular device for communicating curriculum, even though eBooks and electronic texts are becoming available.

As for writing, students write papers and reports all the time, right?  So how are these three activities any different from what students are doing now?

Technology isn’t just for gaming.  It’s the learning tool of the future.  Actually, it’s the learning tool of the present, since papers and reports aren’t written, and many times, they’re not even “papers.”  They’re typed electronic documents submitted for evaluation via attaching, uploading and linking.  As technology becomes evermore pervasive, textbooks will eventually go the way of the newspaper.  That’s good news for any 5th grader who has received homework in every subject, and has had to carry home 5 textbooks in a backpack.

If tech is for learning, then what’s reading for?  Enjoyment.  Kids devoured the Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and the Twilight series.  Too much “reading for assignment” stifles the desire to read for enjoyment, and it’s reading for enjoyment that fosters the theater of the mind, creating visions of the characters, settings and situations described through the author’s written word.  Put a copy of “The Phantom Tollbooth” in the hands of a 4th grade boy and watch his love of reading ignite.  And don’t test him on his understanding of the subtext, nor its imagery, nor the puns contained within it.

As for writing, it’s not all about spelling, sentence structure, grammar or punctuation.  Technology has tools to help correct those errors.  Writing needs to return to pen and paper as well.  Not necessarily for assignment work, but for personal communication.  It’s about the artistic action of the writing instrument in the uniquely created hand of an individual, resulting in a distinctive pattern of loops and lines to convey thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams.  The practice of penmanship generates masterpieces known as letters which are worth saving and, at some point in the future, savoring.  Think of a husband and wife who wrote letters to each other during their courtship.  Many times, as time passes and difficulties arise, they can reread these cherished keepsakes to remember what brought them together in the first place and the sacrifices they made for one another, as opposed to an email that can be deleted with a click, or a text message devoid of capitalization, vowels and articles in the new language of txtspk.  Writing is art, just as much as the expressed sentiments through it are.