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 (and perhaps, not so young adults), as evidenced by the explosive growth in gaming, and, unfortunately for our society, many of the best-selling video games have violence as a key component.  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 continues to make its way into the classroom, there are still an abundance of textbook publishers that create curricular materials to foster student learning.  Students read novels and short stories because they’re part of their assignments for English class.  Although eReaders are becoming more and more popular, the textbook 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 not even “typed,” since typing happens on a typewriter.  Today, text is “keyboarded,” and electronic documents are submitted for evaluation via attaching, uploading and linking.  As technology becomes more pervasive, textbooks could 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, ensure they’re covered, and then return them in in excellent condition for the following school year.

I don’t know about you, but since I’ve left school, I have a ton of books that are highlighted, dog-eared and full of annotations.  To think that all one does is read from the textbook and expect the information to be absorbed by students may be the watershed of our the issues we have with a lack of student achievement today.

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.  They’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.  To eliminate cursive writing from the curriculum is just as mindless as cutting music and art programs that develop the right half of the brain.  Writing is art, just as much as the expressed sentiments through it are.

Read a book; write a paper; tech the tests.