Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

The topic of my editorial this week is a combination of two conversations I’ve had recently: one with my mother (a fourth grade teacher), and the other with visiting poet Micheal O’Siadhail, who discussed poetry in my workshop class last Thursday. O’Siadhail briefly commented on the technological revolution, and how it’s a much faster revolution than any other. Specifically comparing it to the Industrial Revolution, he pointed out that advances are approaching at whirlwind speeds, rather than spanning across generations.

This then made me think of the conversation with my mother over Fall Break. Primarily a math teacher who has been working for the same school district for 20+ years, my mother is accustomed to chalk dust on her palms and mounds of paper tests to grade.

However, as she was telling me about the class schedule her students have throughout the day, I noticed a drastic change in the amount of technology integrated into the classroom.

The school where my mother teaches is by no means the lowest on the educational food chain, but it’s also not a prestigious establishment. It currently has been facing troubles regarding keeping faculty and modifying budget, so it surprised me to hear about the ability to use so much technology in elementary classrooms.

One example is the use of Math 24. 24 is a basic
four-function, calculator-free game where players are
to use the four numbers on each card to make 24. For
example, using the card to the right: 4 divided by 2 = 2
4 times 3 = 12
12 times 2 = 24

There are usually multiple ways to solve each puzzle, and the player who solves it (mentally) first, reaches out to tap the center of the card. If they recite their answer correctly, they keep the card.

24 was played in my elementary school as a competition in fourth and fifth grade. We used decks of the cards to hold games between four students at a time, gradually eliminating players until we had two from each grade. I went to the 24 Districts Tournament in fourth grade at Lehigh University, where the same process was repeated, using paper decks.

My mother’s school has transferred this process to the computer, where students play the game during their last period of the day. This seems to take away the face-to-face competitive element of playing with classmates.

In addition, my mother’s fourth grade students now have computer classes. That’s right. Computer classes, featuring Excel and Powerpoint and, if it continues to progress at this rate, HTML and CSS spreadsheets by 2020.

I do remember using computers while I was in elementary school, but they often only featured supplemental programs to whatever material was being learned, and they were only used during recess or for mandatory quizzes. It feels strange to have these “back in my day” moments, when they were barely ten years ago.

For example, in third grade my class was to learn and match the capital cities to their respective states. We were allowed to use a program which would time us through various matching exercises, helping us to improve our recall and memorization.

In first and second grade I used a Donkey-Kong-ish pixelated gorilla to help me do double-digit math without a calculator. Every answer I got right, he was able to climb another limb of a tree, in pursuit of Chiquita bananas.

Technology has carved its placement in the modern world, and proved its necessity in our culture. It shows no signs of slowing its evolution, but will our generation be able to adapt? Will we become lost, and similar to prior generations, some of whom won’t bother with cell phones and computers? What will be “too much” technology for our generation to handle? Finally, if we can adapt, where will it take us next?

peace to you,
TjT

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