Wise integration of our evolving and powerful technology demands that we rethink our curriculum. What are the capabilities that make the human mind unique—such as empathy and passion—for which people should always be employed? What do machines do far better than humans—such as calculations and simulations—for which technology should be employed as much as possible? Now that kids are routinely exposed to increasingly sophisticated information online, what’s an “age-appropriate” curriculum? What subject matter from the past is still relevant, and for whom?
In these digital times, is it still worthwhile to teach students how to write by hand, calculate in their heads, read, and define words and concepts—that is, most of the elementary school curriculum? Or is that like teaching kids how to hunt for their food? That was useful—once. We say we want kids to think, act, and relate effectively in their future. But many of the “new” Common Core State Standards serve only the needs of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Suppose we were to rethink our curriculum from zero, without any preconceived notions of what was important, caring only about students’ future needs. In a world where you can point a scanner at any text and hear it read to you at any speed in any language, in an age when more and more ideas are distributed only on screens, do we still need to teach reading the way we do now? Or should we teach it using machines that can also read the words aloud and instantly link to related topics? In a world where machines can do calculations faster than any person ever could, do we still need the kind of math we currently teach? Or should we teach with tools like calculators and spreadsheets, which require students to focus on setting up the problem correctly, with the computation part done by the machine?
In a world where humans are becoming overwhelmed by volume, do students still need to practice composing long essays—or should they learn to powerfully condense their thoughts into pithy paragraphs and tweets? Far too many people still wrongly associate length with depth. One of my favorite challenges is to have students summarize in one sentence the essence of whatever book they’re reading. Most can’t do this—or can’t do it well—because we don’t emphasize conciseness. Although it certainly doesn’t cover everything in the work, the tweet “Romeo and Juliet is an ironic, poetic, and emotional look at how misunderstandings and societal problems can turn innocent love into tragedy” reveals a depth of understanding. So can an excellent aphorism or haiku.
Latest posts by Marc Prensky (see all)
- The new curriculum - 03/12/2015
- Math, language arts, science and social studies are NOT what “education” is about… - 02/24/2015
- Moving from Trivial to Powerful - 12/08/2014
- Technology-Enhanced Learning - 11/24/2014