Thursday, February 21, 2008

Paleolithic Pedagogy

In 1939, J. Abner Peddiwell spun a tale of prehistoric educational practices.

There were three core subjects in the curriculum
1. Fish Grabbing
2. Horse Clubbing
3. Tiger Scaring
All were critical components for survival.

But with the onset of a new ice age, the fish became too agile to catch by hand, the horses were replaced by faster antelope, and glacial bears supplanted Saber-Tooth tigers as the greatest risk to personal safety. The teachers insisted on continuing to teach the big 3 holding fast to the belief that the essence of true education was timeless.

Recently I listened to a group of young, motivated, pre-service teachers lament the short attention span of today’s learner. All kids want to do is I.M. and text! Before long, nobody will know how to communicate. The reality is that humankind has always learned what they lived, and lived what they learn. It is a fundamental tenet for survival and those failing to adapt, die out. What are kids living today? Blogging, Instant Messaging, and YouTube. Not too long ago, students were lucky if their parents and teachers read what they wrote. Thanks to technology, a middle class teen now has the equipment and savvy to reach thousands of people all around the globe. And yet we chastise them for their inability to communicate. The only ones failing to communicate are teachers insisting on speaking a dieing language.

Nothing generates fear faster than change. The new is unknown. The unknown frightens us. At one time, artists thought photography would kill painting. Musicians feared if their songs were recorded no one would come to hear them play. And perhaps rightfully, many teachers fear the changing global landscape will usher them to extinction. I don’t blame anyone for holding onto fish grabbing and tiger scarring when that is all they know how to do. However, when the opportunity for professional development presents itself, embrace it, devour it, and evolve into someone new who will remain relevant.

I doubt those reading a blog, let alone one dedicated to technology need to hear this message. I’m 100% confident you know others who do and should provide witness to those lost souls in order to offer pedagogical salvation.


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