Computers and GPS devices are changing our world, both in our everyday lives, but also in how we educate our children. But is this a good thing?
As a company that travels all over the country bringing educational shows and school assemblies to schools, we depend, as you can imagine, on a good sense of direction. Maps and GPS devices are our constant companions. These allow us to travel in and out of unfamiliar communities all over the country, from the streets of Manhattan to the rural byways of the Appalachians to the vast expanses of the Western states. It is our job to not only do a good show, but to arrive at what are sometimes obscure and hard to find locations in a timely manner.
Years ago, we depended upon directions provided by our client schools, since detailed local maps for each of the many thousands of locations we visit each year were a luxury we could not always manage. Over the years, along with the rest of America, we have swung more and more to a dependency on those wonderful little GPS gadgets. Ah, they do make life easier. Or at least, most of the time. But when they do fail, the consequences can be catastrophic. Just today, a performer was late arriving at a school even though he had allowed ample extra travel time to allow for difficulties. His problem was that he relied upon his GPS. When a key local road was blocked due to construction, he was without a map, and his GPS kept leading him back to the same blocked road.
We worry that this mentality may plague future generations who now no longer find it necessary to know how to read a map.
In schools across the country, something similar may be happening.
In the past, much of education was concerned with learning facts and figures, places and dates. Memorization of detail was a fundamental part of learning. Today, with facts only a click away on a personal handheld device, educators are switching to a new trend. No longer focusing on memorization of details, the new trend is toward teaching “problem solving”. At least, this is what we have been told by several friends in the education world.
I am just an old actor, and I have not the training in education shared by my friends who inhabit this world and practice in it everyday. So, I cannot comment on this trend, nor do I wish to appear disdainful or critical of new trends. But, as a lay person, it troubles me to see basic skills, previously considered as indispensable, possibly lost by younger generations.
With the introduction of inexpensive calculators, many young people lost basic skills in simple addition, subtraction and multiplication. Word processing spell checkers now routinely fill in for a solid knowledge of spelling. Kids no longer learn to effectively read maps. Soon, I fear, they will no longer remember dates and places.
I hope I am wrong. I would love to have this discussion with some of you who are more knowledgeable than I regarding the newer trends in education, so that my fears may be allayed. I would invite comments from readers in this regard.
In the meantime, I shall retain my trusty road atlas, and my maps, just as I have retained many of my old hand tools even after newer electric tools made them appear obsolete. I still keep a dictionary on my desk. And I still add columns in my checkbook without a calculator. These tools and skills have served me well my entire life and I respect them. Besides, you never know when the power just might go out, right?
Geoff Beauchamp is the Regional Manager of Mobile Ed Productions where "Education Through Entertainment" has been the guiding principal since 1979. Mobile Ed Productions produces and markets quality educational school assembly programs in the fields of science, history, writing, astronomy, natural science, mathematics, character issues and a variety of other curriculum based areas. In addition, Mr. Beauchamp is a professional actor with 30 years of experience in film, television and on stage. He created and still performs occasionally in Mobile Ed's THE LIVING LINCOLN