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The Debate: Are traditional skills lost to technology?
by Rich Kendell
Oct 30, 2011 | 4047 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rich Kendell
Rich Kendell
The growing use of educational technologies to deliver instruction, assess student achievement, and to create new learning opportunities for students is an important development that will refashion education in much the same way that technologies have reshaped, even revolutionized, other aspects of our lives.

Only a decade ago who would have guessed the impact of the Internet on such far ranging matters as the way we access news, find entertainment through our smart phones, place orders to buy and sell securities, and discover new ways to book airline travel and vacations?

As new technologies are introduced into education, teachers, students, parents, all of us, will need new skills if we are to optimize the opportunities and advantages that are available to us.

It may be the case that some skills that were an important part of past practice will see less emphasis in the future. For example the skills to write, spell, punctuate, and to use good grammar should not be lost, but these skills are aided by computer based programs available to almost everyone.

My unabridged dictionary (20 pounds worth) is rarely taken off of the shelf and my three volumes of Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition have not been opened for many years. The computer simply does a better job with these tasks.

I want to suggest three important developments made possible by emerging technologies that offset concerns about de-emphasizing traditional skills.

The first is the availability of resources to enrich instruction. Libraries and study centers have their place, but students now have access to enormous online resources made possible by museums, learned societies, libraries, colleges, universities and many more.

A second development is the use of interactive software that can diagnose student learning and provide individualized learning modules responsive to individual needs.

A third development is emergence of networking and team building made possible by shared resources.

At Gunn High School in Palo Alto, every student, faculty and staff member has a Google account with Google Apps. Faculty download a rich variety of course materials to students, and students upload drafts of their projects to teachers, or share their work with other students with common interests who want to work together. Centennial Junior High in Kaysville is creating the same kind of environment although in their first year of operation and trying to work out “bugs.” They too have the advantage of Google accounts and Google Apps. The Davis School District should be applauded for this bold new learning venture.

Developing the assets inherent in the new educational technologies is not a simple task. Everyone involved needs to be trained and to develop new skills. Those I interviewed at Centennial Junior seem to be both challenged and enthused about the technologies they are using. These new ways to deliver instruction and to monitor student progress are seen as promising, important new developments.

The big issue facing Utah will be making these technologies available to all faculty and school children. Will these new technologies and strategies be restricted to new schools or to those in more affluent school districts? This is an important infrastructure investment that will require planning and, likely more funding. In the final analysis today’s students will be the ones who sustain our most important institutions and invent new ways to a better and more prosperous future. Their education is our best bet for a better prepared workforce and a more robust economy.

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