One [topic that can help prepare students], is one that is rapidly being phased out by technology.  It is the ability for a student to express himself/herself on paper, in the written mode, using thought and creativity.

I’m not sure if the reader/respondent intended to include the words ‘on paper’ or not.  Perhaps it was unconsciously added without thinking.  But those two words make quite the difference in the context.

On the one hand, I could not agree more that everyone needs to be able to express themselves thoughtfully (in any mode), but I wonder if they really need to be able do it on paper.  Are writing skills “being phased out by technology?”

Having experienced both ‘paper/pencil’ and ‘digital’ writing during school and my career, I now consider myself a better writer while using technology than I was before its availability.  That may not be a universal opinion, but even that underscores the point:  The ability to thoughtfully express oneself is not a function of the medium used to do so.

The opening quote reminded me that ‘technology’ has always been changing. It also reminded me of the implications for education amidst times of change (which is to say always?).

Long ago, I discovered a fun page of quotes about change that I used to use with teachers.  It was entitled The More Things Change, and looked like this (with some minor editing):

 1703:  Students today can’t prepare bark to calculate their problems.  They depend upon slates. When their slate is dropped and it breaks, they will be unable to write! Teachers Conference 1703

 1815: Students today depend upon paper too much.  They don’t know how to write on slate without chalk dust all over themselves.  What will they do when they run out of paper? Principal’s Association, 1815

1907:  Students today depend upon ink.  They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil.  Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.  National Association of Teachers, 1907

1929:  Students today depend upon store-bought ink.   When they run out of ink they will be unable to write words or ciphers until their next trip to the settlement.  A sad commentary on modern education. The Rural American Teacher, 1929

1941: Students today depend upon expensive fountain pens.  They can no longer write with a straight pen and nib (not to mention sharpening their own quills). We parents must not allow them to wallow in such luxury to the detriment of learning how to cope in the real business world, which is not so extravagant.  PTA Gazette, 1941

1950: Ball point pens will be the ruin of education in our country.  Students use these devices and then throw them away.  The America virtues of thrift and frugality are being discarded.  Business and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries!  Federal Teacher, 1950

There’s always the chance these quotes were invented, of course, but that’s not the point.  These things likely were commonly said and felt at the time, and we could easily hear our own version of this list today, involving calculators, word processing, cell phones, social media, etc.)

Things are always changing, as we know.  The point is, we experience that change as an evolution, not a revolution, so it’s hard to keep perspective.  And there’s the rub for our education systems.  In a few years, we will be laughing at today’s list, as we now laugh at the ones above.  The question is:  What will be on the ‘changing’ list then, and are we preparing our students for those things now?