My grandfather was an extraordinary man. He had the ability to glance at a field and by simply looking upon the land he could tell you the acreage, how much seed to plant, what yield would come from the crops, and the profit from the sale after taxes. What makes him extraordinary is that he could do this all in his head. My father’s generation was not asked to learn in the same way. With the invention of the calculator, my father was able to do complex equations with a piece of paper and his trusty Texas Instruments calculator by his side. By the time my own generation came along, we were not required to do much more than learn the difference between standard and metric measurements above learning how to multiply, divide, add, and subtract by memory.
Today, students are challenged in a different way. Websites are able to do complex mathematical equations at the click of a button. Online dictionaries, encyclopedias, and government websites allow students access to more information than could be read in a lifetime. Libraries have become a thing of the past. Memorization, extinct. Students today are learning in a new way. Online classes allow for immediate scoring. Video teaching along with transcripts of the sessions allow students the opportunity to learn, review, and relearn as needed. Learning challenged students are able to have sections read to them simply by highlighting and clicking a button. SMART Boards, video projected microscopes, and student computer tablets have helped students keep pace with an ever developing technological world.
Students are also able to work independently through online learning. For students that know the information, pretesting allows teachers to identify their students’ strengths and to help the students focus on their areas of weakness while rewarding the knowledge base the students currently possesses. Imagine a classroom full of 30 students but each working at their own pace all the while being assisted individually by a credentialed teacher or professional tutor. The drawbacks to this new way of learning are clear. With the ease of finding answers via Google, students have the ability to cheat. Cheating is nothing new and will continue regardless of the system but with the proper technology and a savvy IT director, Firewalls can block students from gaining access to programs that will give students an unfair edge.
I envy the education of my grandfather’s era. They were not only taught to think but also challenged to think deeply. It was the difficulties that generation faced that shaped and molded them into the greatest generation of our time. I do not want my children or students to return to those days of education. I would rather have them look back to see how far we have come. Studying Mars, exploring space, connecting with other countries, seeing the world, or even finding the love of your life may be just a click away. It allows students to pursue their dreams, build unimaginable things, and travel far beyond this world in which we live. I will be inconvenienced when the power goes down and the clerk standing in front of me at the grocery store cannot figure out how to make change manually simply because that same clerk can finish his or her job, log on at home and complete a doctorate degree, then become a neurosurgeon that one day saves my life. I look forward to the future of education because I am in the present making sure my children and my students learn not only what information is available, but also how to use it properly.