The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

The pen is mightier than the sword – but does the iPad conquer all?

Truth is I might have said yes. But wait…

In fact I have been talking a lot about the latest toddler move – the horizontal hand swipe. I’m sure many of you have seen it – my 2-year-old grandson is a black belt at it. They know how to turn on an iPad, activate apps and use them. They can find movies and little videos their parents (and grandparents, as the case may be) have saved for them and in general entertain themselves for hours at a time.

Good, no?

The fully digital generation – born swiping from the womb.

What an opportunity!!!! Think of the learning potential!!! Think of the educational opportunities!!! Think what they might accomplish….

Truth is I really believed it. Always did – from the earliest days of popular computing.

But once again, it is the Technical elite; the digital lords – those who created the world we live in – who remind us not to lose touch with our own humanity and to boil it down to education – not to forget the power of the pen.

There has been a spate of reporting the past few months on the value of the fully computerized schoolroomDo students learn more? The same? Less? than their counterparts in – shudder the thought – traditional schools (keep media and companies in mind too).

Guess which it is?

Depending on the source it’s either inconclusive or less – but not more – HMMM….

Now here is the killer and why we had better pay attention.

The Silicon Valley Digerati are sending their children to a school that has no computers – not one in the school and they don’t want their students using them at home either. In fact the school’s philosophy is that computers inhibit “creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.”

Called The Waldorf School – whose philosophy of teaching is about a century old – the branch in the Valley is just one of around 160 in the U.S. and any number of emulators.

“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aides in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, a senior executive at Google whose children attend the school. Alan has written speeches for Eric Schmidt.

The school teaches the fundamentals and it teaches them creatively using tactile methods and creating fun, irresistible, engaging programs around everything from fractions – taught by cutting and eating fruit – to language – taught by coordinating body and mind.

But it wasn’t just the school that caught my attention – it was the comments by the Digital parents – representing the best companies in Silicon Valley.

Check this one out – “Engagement is about human contact, the contact with the teacher, the contact with their peers,” this quote from a Microsoft/Intel veteran, Pierre Laurent, who works at a high-tech start-up.

Here is a killer – when asked if his children might be behind if they don’t learn digital skills from the cradle. Eagle commented, “It’s supereasy. It’s like learning to use toothpaste. At Google and all those places we make technology as brain-dead easy to use as possible. There’s no reason why kids can’t figure it out when they get older.”

Interestingly enough the kids from Waldorf complain that when they socialize with other kids or are around adults who are wrapped up in their devices, they get frustrated as the device mob is so self-absorbed and oblivious.

Bottom line – this not a screed against digital – au contraire – I’m paying homage to the people I consider to be in the digital leadership of the world – and I’m suggesting we take a lesson – borrow a page – open our eyes.

It has long been my contention that humanity will always triumph – see the terminator….

I have written before about our need for people insight; for off-line observations and up-close and intimate connectivity.

The movie here is that the rest of us become device dependent – while the children of those who made us dependent learn to function in the real world; learn to focus on creative problem solving; learn to appreciate and understand the world and what makes it work – then one day – someone pulls the plug…guess who rules? Maybe I should sell the script.

Seriously, I really do believe this is the most important article I have read in a while and its implications are mind blowing.

Wake-up call!!!!

Listen to the following – from the very beginning of the age we are in:

“All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value.” Carl Sagan

Not all bits have equal value. Clearly not all education does either. Nor anything, for that matter, that could benefit from human face-to-face interaction.

Let me end with a quote from a 10-year-old whose father works at Google:

“If you learn to write on paper, you can still write if water spills on the computer or the power goes out.”

I don’t know about you – but I’m not throwing out my dog-eared copy of Cyrano just yet.

What do you think?











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