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.  Of course, today, with our pandemic, technology is how we’re working from home, and students are learning from home.  Back in 2003, it was said that in 10 years, education will be delivered radically differently that it was then.  In 2013, not much had changed, except for the fact that STEM began making its way into the school vernacular.  In 2020, it’s taken a pandemic to pivot to technology-based learning.  And frankly, it’s really “too bad” that parents don’t like it.  Why don’t parents want their kids at home today?  Because the school is the new childcare facility funded by public dollars.  Parents are the first teachers of the child, and it seems as if Generation X and the Millennials have forgotten about that.

But while technology is making its way into the classroom and into the home for distance learning, there are still an abundance of textbook publishers that create paper-based materials to foster student learning.  School students read novels and short stories because they’re part of their assignments for English class.  The book is still the most popular device for communicating curriculum.

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 – and the future is NOW.  Term 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 ubiquitous and not just 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 series, the Hunger Games series, 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.  When he reads is 10 years later, he’ll “get it.”

As for writing, it’s not about spelling, sentence structure, grammar or punctuation.  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, 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.