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.  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.  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 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.

By the way, nobody reads for instruction anymore.  Nobody reads the directions.  The expectation technology has created is that EVERYTHING is intuitive.  This even extends to the most basic of instructions.  I recently purchased a retractable hose for our home’s backyard.  The back of the house has vinyl siding, but the instructions and parts were that were included were for installing the device on brick or stone.  If it was going to be used on wood, then lag bolts (which were not included) would be necessary.  Therefore, I read the instructions – which mentioned NOTHING about installing on siding.  I had to search for a YouTube video to discover that the unit should not be attached to siding, but rather, a block of wood needed to be cut to match the size of the mounting bracket, and the wood needed to be screwed into the vertical wood stud behind the siding, and then the mounting bracket could be attached to the block of wood.  My friends who worked with wood and did construction said this was common knowledge to them.  For me, who works with technology, this was not an intuitive exercise.

Even in business today, someone gets an email with attachments, they just look at the attachments and don’t bother to read the instructive part of the email.  Non-profits today send out three-page solicitation letters.  As one donor succinctly put it, “Too many words.”  If the perception is indeed “too many words,” it won’t be skimmed…it just won’t be read…and will be deleted…and find its way into the physical or electronic recycle bin.

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.

Which is why it’s a shame that handwriting is now being extracted from the elementary school curriculum.  After all, the adults of tomorrow won’t need to sign anything…like student loan refinancing or home mortgage documents, right?