by Virginia Heffernan
If you have a child entering grade school this fall, file away just one number with all those back-to-school forms: 65 percent.Number one: I write books, and I write a blog. Books are harder.
Chances are just that good that, in spite of anything you do, little Oliver or Abigail won’t end up a doctor or lawyer — or, indeed, anything else you’ve ever heard of. According to Cathy N. Davidson, co-director of the annual MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions, fully 65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet.
Ms. Davidson herself was appalled not long ago when her students at Duke, who produced witty and incisive blogs for their peers, turned in disgraceful, unpublishable term papers. But instead of simply carping about students with colleagues in the great faculty-lounge tradition, Ms. Davidson questioned the whole form of the research paper.“What if bad writing is a product of the form of writing required in school — the term paper — and not necessarily intrinsic to a student’s natural writing style or thought process?” She adds: “What if ‘research paper’ is a category that invites, even requires, linguistic and syntactic gobbledygook?”
What if, indeed. After studying the matter, Ms. Davidson concluded, “Online blogs directed at peers exhibit fewer typographical and factual errors, less plagiarism, and generally better, more elegant and persuasive prose than classroom assignments by the same writers.”
A classroom suited to today’s students should deemphasize solitary piecework.
The new classroom should teach the huge array of complex skills that come under the heading of digital literacy. And it should make students accountable on the Web, where they should regularly be aiming, from grade-school on, to contribute to a wide range of wiki projects.
Number two: Kathleen Porter-Magee deals with the forget-the-past-teach-the-future folderol.
Number three: As always, I object to other people telling me what my kids must spend their childhood doing -- and, more importantly, not doing -- at school. Especially seeing as how other people's folderol means I have to pay for a Jesuit high school because the public schools I am also paying for are assigning posters in Honors English. If Cathy N. Davidson and Virginia Heffernan want their kids contributing to a wide range of wiki projects starting at the age of 5, fine. Leave my kids out of it.
extra credit: Does that 65% figure apply to Smart Boards?
the founder, chairman, and CEO of Netflix has a really bad idea
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oh brave new world!
codswallop, part 2