Early in the school year when my children were in fourth grade, I attended a parents/principal night. These recurring events at our school meant to ease the transition for kids and their parents from grade to grade and involved an open forum with the school principal. My wife and I alternate attending such events, and it was my turn this time.
The forum touched on a particular topic I found fascinating. Our school principal expressed concern over the previous year's low test scores on statewide creative writing exams. This, she stated matter-of-factly, was not unique to our school but was a more general theme among kids of a certain age. It seemed kids from grades 3 to 5 were finding it increasingly difficult to express and elaborate their thoughts on paper.
“No wonder,” I thought, “They are the Twitter / Snapchat / TikTok generation, aren't they?”
If you asked those same kids struggling with long-form writing to Tweet or vlog their take on an event or express their current feelings in 280 characters (or less) or 30 seconds of vlogging, they will likely produce a dozen posts a minute all that demonstrate that their comprehension of the discussion topic is worthy of a high grade.
What Does the Future Hold?
It begs the question — what does the future of human-to-human communication look like, how do we ready our children to a Digital First world and are educators and schools prepared? Is asking our kids, in a state-administered test, to express their thoughts in a format that is evaporating from their lives, an adequate way to gauge their creativity or are there other mediums that are more appropriate for the next generation?
When was the last time you hand-wrote a letter, sent a postcard to a friend instead of a happy birthday GIF. When have you last written to your local newspaper instead of venting about current affairs on Facebook? How many hours do we spend in live concert venues or attending the opera each year versus listening to a Spotify playlist? Is writing a multi-page essay the right skill to be testing and grading our kids on, or should we ask them to communicate their understanding of a major work of fiction effectively in 280 characters or less?
Language, both written and spoken, is constantly evolving. We don't have to be experts in the field to see that the ratio between cell phone minutes and text messages on our family plan has increased dramatically over the last few years. A new generation always brings different attention spans, social norms, and methods of communication. Are educators prepared for this change? Are they teaching the right foundational skills for tomorrow?
Recently some of the world's largest tech firms and its leaders coalesced around the topic of shortage in tech skills and made a plea to the US education system to add computer science, data science and other advanced technology subjects to K-12 syllabuses in schools.
The talent shortage is real, humanity is going Digital, communication mediums are changing and the education system has not yet "gotten the memo".
What technology education will you be supplementing your children with at their early age to better prepare them for tomorrow?
Please post your views below and let me know what you think!