Going Back To The Basics In Education

When it comes to texting, I’m all thumbs

A few weekends ago, my son and I went on a “Stargazing Astronomy Cruise “on Casco Bay off Portland Maine as a Father’s Day gift. It was cool, about ten people on an open, retired US Navy skiff with an Astronomer from The University of Southern Maine. One of the other passengers was a woman whose children go to Catholic school in The Portland Archdiocese and when she found out that I was in the Education business, she started telling me about her kids’ (the oldest is 14) adventures in school and how angry she is that the kids “aren’t even learning cursive writing.”

And, beyond the usual curmudgeonly cliché “that’s what I learned in school and it never hurt me,” she absolutely understood why it’s important to learn cursive neurologically… its hand-to-brain learning. And that’s important… even beyond solid aim when you want to pick your nose.

Here’s the simple explanation as to why it’s important, from www.scilearn.com via the words of author/psychologist, Stanislas Dehaene, at the College de France in Paris (who) states that, “When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated. There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain. And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize. Learning is made easier.So when we write something down, this research has shown that our brains get activated in ways that aren’t activated when we type something. And this brain activation helps with recall when we are learning.”

Pretty smart mom, eh? I couldn’t agree with her more.

In addition to that, two days later, I did three “Live from ISTE” shows on Education Talk Radio. Something very interesting that I would not have expected came up on them.

To put it into perspective, ISTE, in case you just arrived from Mars or missed that day in your courses at ‘The Vladimir Putin “How to be an American Educator ” Spy School,” is the acronym for the International Society for Technology in Education. The EdTech folks and ISTE’s conference are huge in terms of both exhibitors and attendees.

So, as I interviewed various exhibitors and companies attending the show, you’d think all we’d be talking about was high tech EdTech.

Au contraire’, Laddie Buck.

Several of the companies I spoke to, much to my surprise, talked about their new products in teaching another hand to brain subject, typing aka keyboarding.

Keyboarding? What?? These kids are digital natives. They’ve been playing with keyboards for years. Typing has become, I would have thought, almost instinctual, like turning right when you’re driving if you see a Dunkin Donuts on your right. It’s in our DNA.

I honestly don’t know if typing is still taught in schools. It was when I was a teacher. It was the corner room as far away from possible from everything else because the clickety-clack of the typing was constant out of the classroom. I haven’t heard much about it lately, but I have this feeling it’s not happening like it used to. This is an error. Hence some edTech companies are going back to basics in an age of advancing EdTech.

By the way, you are reading the words of the world’s fastest two finger typist, (oops, keyboardist, or keyboarder, or typer?) When I was in high school, I took academic subjects; highly useful subjects like Trigonometry and Physics. No typing class for Larry. I assume they figured that, because I was college bound, I’d eventually be a professional executive of some sort and have a secretary and she could type for me. Remember there were no computers back then so why bother teaching ‘academic me’ something I’d never use and, thanks to that philosophy, my college term papers looked like they were typed by an elderly, blind Orangutan.

These days, we have voice command that can do typing for us. Why even bother with keyboarding skills? Here’s why. Voice ain’t perfect. A favorite guest of mine on the show is a Community College professor in Michigan. Her name is Amelia Gamel. She left me a voice mail, “Hi Larry, This is a Million Camels” was the way it started. My friend Joann McDevitt’s message came out as “Ceramic Divots calling.” So much for transcription.

And we have texting. Let me be blunt, at the risk of sounding like a Luddite looking at a motor-driven tractor in 1873 and saying “nope , I’m sticking with my mule,” I hate texting. One reason is that I’m one of those texters who uses my index finger to hit the keys as I hunt and peck for them, so my text of “yes, I’ll meet you on time” usually starts off as, “tess, I’ll meat u on rmie”.

But I watch 21st century humans text and it’s all thumbs. I am, fyi, pro-thumb. I want to make that clear but I also like the other eight fingers. And if kids just use their thumbs all the time, the other eight become vestigial and what scares me, among other things, is that we will evolve to a point where babies cutely waving bye-bye will become a thing of the past as the new mom says “Honey, text Nanny bye-bye.”

There are serious reasons as well. Good keyboarding saves time and time in our day and age is a very valuable commodity. Good typing skills improve posture too and again, in an age when we’re stuck in front of computers all day, ergonomics matters for good health.

If you want to read a great article on the importance of teaching keyboarding, go here: http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech072.shtml. Then listen to the shows below to hear about some of the latest products out there at http://tobtr.com/10086671 , http://tobtr.com/10094271 and http://tobtr.com/10105383 if you feel like heading back to basics.

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