Does teaching today’s students, as we taught yesterday’s, rob them of tomorrow?

Debate #3 Reflection: Should schools no longer teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology? What a fiery debate! I agree with Matt’s blog post – teachers are passionate! And maybe a tad competitive…??

I am very much on the fence about this topic. I have two daughters, one in grade 4 and one in kindergarten, and I am a full supporter of “the basics”: spelling and multiplication practice and the repetition of letters to remember them! I questioned my fourth grader when she came home with no spelling words at the beginning of the year! And during February and March, my kindergartener spent every night identifying her letters! 

BUT! As a high school teacher, I am witnessing a need from students for correct answers, for “how tos”, repetitive practices, with a one answer end. Where is the innovation? The creativity? The problem-solving? The curiosity?? Giving students assignments and projects that require all those things (e.g. open-ended, no procedure) are usually met with groans and huffs. 

The Agree Team did a great job of stating the importance of prioritizing learning the application of technology in education over the basics. What also sparked my interest was Erica Swallow’s article on Tony Wagner. Wagner’s quote: “The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know” struck me! He is right! What can you DO with what you know? How can you APPLY it? On the May long weekend, I was speaking with a friend who works in the HR department at Viterra. She asked if we still did student-led presentations in high school anymore, because Viterra was seeing that new hires could not or did not want to present in front of their peers. Is public speaking a basic skill or more? Is public speaking something that should be prioritized? In this example it doesn’t matter if the employee knows the statistics on pension investments – but how they can communicate that information with the company. 

What I also liked about the Wagner article was his emphasis on curiosity and inquisitiveness! This makes me think of my children’s TV shows like Elinor Wonders Why and Sesame Street. Where asking questions is encouraged and in Sesame Street’s case, it models what to do when you have a question: “We look it up!”. 

This curiosity is also a priority in my science classroom! I actually started this semester with a clip from Ted Lasso (thanks to Walt Whitman) about being curious!

And it was followed by this quote from Helen Keller:

The Disagree Team also did an amazing job. One of the articles that caught my attention was from the Calgary Sun in 2014. First, I was interested in the article’s big concern about Alberta’s PISA rankings, are those standardized tests really the best to evaluate students? Do students and their countries need to be ranked? A topic for another blog post… Second, I was intrigued by a parent’s (a physician!) comment on her child’s math program. While many studies do prove that student’s math skills are declining, I am interested in how an individual not from the teaching profession is being questioned about this. Why aren’t grade 3 teachers being interviewed in this article? Are educators not professionals? I understand that parents are just looking out for what is best for their child, but is that also the curriculum writer’s job? A teacher’s job?

So what is the answer – prioritizing the basics or the “Core Competencies and Skills”?

So many factors play a part in this! Do I dare say the cliche: a balance between the both? Can it be done? What will the future hold with technology taking on so many roles in our lives?

This entry was posted in EC&I 830. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Does teaching today’s students, as we taught yesterday’s, rob them of tomorrow?

  1. Gunpreesh . says:

    Nicole, I agree with your point of view of having a balance between both. I believe in learning and also in teaching basic skills or concepts as compared to using technology for the same. There is no harm in using different and updated apps like Grammarly, Khan Academy, desmos, and many more for learning skills but sometimes these apps do not give an appropriate and correct answer. So, having a pre-knowledge about concepts is necessary.

  2. Kelly Ziegler says:

    I know the Grade 6 Mathematics curriculum, says that students need mental math and computation skills to foster problem-solving and critical thinking skills, but it also says that a balance with technology is also needed. I don’t think that we need to only choose one side, and the old school doesn’t have to be the only way to learn these basic skills either. Balance is key. As in everything. Great summary with very valid points!

  3. Amanpreet says:

    I believe that technology has the potential to alter education. Educators should work with their students to learn together, figure out new information and developing new abilities. Educators should use technology effectively in their profession in order to fully opt the benefits of technology in education and deliver realistic learning experiences. I think that there is still a digital divide between learners who use technology to help their learning in active, creative ways and those who primarily utilize it for passive content consumption. No doubt, greater communication, resource sharing, and enhanced practice are all made possible by technology. Thanks for sharing great information.

  4. Love that Ted Lasso video and also the Helen Keller quote. It’s true, students rely so heavily on the teachers for ALL the answers. What’s interesting is that we want students to be curious and take risks, but we’ve really raised them to follow instructions and work for the test. So, where’s the balance? I think that argument could actually be used to defend both sides of the argument. We could say that technology stops students from thinking for themselves…and we could also argue that the use of technology frees students up to work on my creating and open-ended tasks.
    I think it truly comes down to the pedagogy…tech or no tech. We can have 1:1 teachers who control the learning environment, preventing students really believing they’re allowed to think for themselves. And then we can have tech-free teachers who create the most amazing open-ended learning opportunities for their students.
    I do believe that students need to think about the why behind the basics and I also think that as long as writing is a form of communication, they should know how to do it. However, I think most importantly, students need to be allowed to think, take risks, make mistakes and not be consumed by curriculum and teacher-determined learning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *