The New York Times today has a nice piece celebrating the move toward a digital schoolhouse.
Textbooks have not gone the way of the scroll yet, but many educators say that it will not be long before they are replaced by digital versions — or supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos and projects on the Web…
“Kids are wired differently these days,” said Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, La. “They’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose and extrapolate. And they think of knowledge as infinite. “They don’t engage with textbooks that are finite, linear and rote,” Dr. Abshire continued. “Teachers need digital resources to find those documents, those blogs, those wikis that get them beyond the plain vanilla curriculum in the textbooks.”
I applaud most everything about the article and the schools featured: digital textbooks in particular, relying on open-source material and laptops/ netbooks/ kindles/ smartphones to access and manipulate those “texts” are fast-in-coming (and yet at the same time overdue!).
But I am going to express a single hesitation: that we not lose the incredible importance of the interpersonal development that is at the core of the schoolhouse experience. There is a place for on-line learning, but here’s calling for it to be a narrow place for most students, and that the much larger place be reserved for schoolhouse environments where teachers advise and inspire and mentor and coach students to places they never could go otherwise because of the personal, (live, vital and vibrant) role they play in the lives of their students on campus. Students, too, learn enormous amounts from each other when in a safe, dedicated space to personal growth and exploration– and while the online social networks can add to these non-virtual schoolhouses, they cannot supplant them without losing something vital.