3 Things That Need to Stay in the Classroom

AppleBooksPencilsEducation is changing before our very eyes. Some days it’s inspiring, yet others it’s plain scary and even frustrating. I just read an article about things that are obsolete in education. Upon seeing the title, I feared that it was going to cite things such as teachers and textbooks. Instead, it went way beyond these things. Almost everything listed was technology related. It cited the negativities of computer labs, why schools shouldn’t ban cell phones, and stressed the incompetency of schools without Facebook and Twitter pages. I agree with most of what it said, but now I have another question: did I miss the article that listed books as obsolete, or can we safely say they are here to stay?
I appreciate technology and the advantages it gives us. I like that I can watch from my computer to make sure students are working on assignments, yet I still think it’s more personable to walk around and look over their shoulders. I like that I can take my laptop anywhere and grade my students’ essays, but I miss using my purple pen to write comments that force conversations due to my bad handwriting. And I really appreciate that listening to music on personal devices while working can keep some students focused (and quiet) yet know I can’t use this as crutch for managing a particularly challenging group of kids.
Is technology, the thing that is supposed to provide us with superior connection, making us completely disconnected? Sometimes I feel that I am in a battle against technology. Technology is creating laziness and attempting to put distance between my students and me. But I refuse to let it win. Sometimes the traditional method can still work. Or we can use a combination of the old and the new. No matter what comes of technology, there are three things that should never be completely removed from education.

1. Paper and Pencils – With computers, who needs them? Well, me, for one. Next thing you know, schools won’t even teach handwriting. Can you imagine? I guess we could assign everyone a font to help them feel unique. Every student works differently, but computers tend to speed up the process, which in turn speeds up the time spent thinking. Writing things out elongates the process and gives more thinking time. When my students go into their SOL writing test, I encourage them to take advantage of the scratch paper provided them. There is something about jotting things down on paper. A web or an outline should be easy and rough, and the computer can make this a challenge. Next time your child is having trouble writing a paper, try the old-fashioned pencil and paper method.

2. Books – I support online textbooks. I support reading on a NOOK… I do it myself (although, I do get frustrated when I forget to charge it and can’t find out what happened next). But to totally do away with books would be such a disservice and would be devastating. Reading words on a screen simply doesn’t work for some people. I fear the day when books start to fade away like the compact disc. The last music store shut down at Valley View Mall recently. I remember when there was one on almost every corner. I hope this doesn’t happen to the bookstores. I need my Barnes & Noble. There’s nothing better than strolling through a bookstore, especially when it was suggested by one of your children. We all know the saying: don’t judge a book by its cover. Yet, let’s be honest, we have also all picked up a book due to an enticing cover. The Internet cannot engage us in the same way. Online books are fine, as long as it is just one option. You just can’t curl up with a laptop.

3. Teachers – Will teachers one day be completely replaced with online classes and curriculum? While convenient, even our current online classes that have a teacher behind the scenes can be, at times, disconcerting. I am currently taking an online class, and though it has been a good experience, I wish I could meet the professor and have a face to face conversation. Sometimes the blogs and e-mails amongst the class just don’t cut it. I want to meet the person behind the stories that I am critiquing. This online format is surely not for the lazy or unmotivated. Younger students especially will always need the face to face encouragement of a teacher; a smile or a pat on the back can go a long way. I know I may be a little biased, since it is my profession, but teachers will always be a necessity.

I love technology; it has made my life easier in so many ways. I support using it freely and often in the classroom, but it’s up to us to make sure it is used for efficiency, learning, and creativity, which it can be on so many levels. One way to differentiate in the classroom is to offer some old-fashioned options along with the new. We need not force technology upon things that already work just because we can. After all, another old adage surely applies: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In the future, as my car is driving me to the grocery story, I might think back and laugh at these words I’ve written (oops… I mean typed and submitted to the publisher electronically). Until then, I’ll enjoy my Nook and perusing the book store, I’ll hand write letters to my Nana but send e-mails to my colleagues, and I’ll simply allow technology to be a helpful companion NOT a dictator.

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