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Saturday
Apr282018

It's about time to give up some of these "skills"

By the time students reach secondary school it is assumed that they will be able to read a clock face, although in reality this is often not the case ... Earlier this year, a senior paediatric doctor warned that children are increasingly finding it hard to hold pens and pencils because of an excessive use of technology. Schools are removing analogue clocks from exam halls as teenagers "cannot tell the time' The Telegraph, April 24, 2018

On reading this, my first reaction was 'I suspect few children today can use an hourglass, sharpen a quill pen, or add with an abacus either. What is the world coming to?"

It's easy to identify skills that technology is asking all of us, especially kids, to master. Keyboarding, critical searching, digital safety, video and photo editing, graphic design, ... the list goes on. Advocating for "21st century skills" has become an industry in the education world.

What is rarely discussed is what can and should be let go. Why are we even discussing penmanship, reading analog clocks, or driving a car with a manual transmission? How essential are map reading skills when a good GPS gets you there? Land-line telephones, fax machines, and even music and video stored on physical media are disappearing. As technology changes, so do the skills needed to use it.

IXL Math apparently still "teaches" analog clock interpretation. OK, I will admit that there may be rare occasions when this ability might come in handy. I can't really think of one right now, but I am sure they exist. The question is, however, how might instructional time be better used in teaching or reinforcing a math skill that gets used on a far more regular basis.

A few years ago, one of our state's standardized tests asked questions related to "guide words" on the pages of a dictionary. You remember dictionaries ... those books full of words from before we could simply click on a strange combination of letters and get a definition? 

Old people, get over it. There are hard learned skills that you indeed to master as a student. But a lot of them kids just don't need anymore.

Happy Monday.

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Reader Comments (4)

Would you mind contacting the CollegeBoard and ask them to allow the AP Computer Science exam to type their code and not have to hand write it? With all of the technology we have AND the fact that the exam covers technology and coding, why hasn't someone figures this out?

...and would you mind then calling the IRS and ask them to refund all the money I owe them? Thanks!

May 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

You owe the IRS money? I only get money back ;-)

Doug

May 2, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Driving a car with a manual transmission is, to pardon the pun, "the standard" in many parts of the world. It is hardly an obsolete skill. It saves on gas, is cheaper to purchase and provides more torque. You kind of sound like one of those kids who whines in math class, "But when are we ever going to USE this in real life?" My answer is, "You never know when you're going to use it." I thought I would NEVER use trigonometric functions because what are those anyways? But then I ended up with a summer job at a land surveying company!! Stretching your brain with new skills is never a waste of time. Now, I'm going to go learn how to sharpen a quill...

May 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLeni

Hi Leni,

Oh, it would be fine is we all had all the time we needed to learn all the skills we could possibly need one day. Yes, renting cars in Europe made me thankful I could drive a stick - it saved me a little money.

The problem is that we need to prioritize those skills and learn those with the highest probability of use. For most kids, how likely is it that they will be driving in Europe?

And I too ran a rod and chain for survey company. Basic math seemed to work as I recall (but that was back in the '70s)

Appreciate your note and divergent opinion!

Doug

May 14, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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