Has Going to School Become Obsolete?

The issue of technology and education has been a popular one for some time now, and it’s begun to raise the question, has the traditional classroom become a thing of the past? If we track the traditional classroom’s history, we’ll find that it had a lot to do with uniformity: 300 years ago, the British Empire thought it’d be handy to train all British subjects the same way so they all wrote in the same script, could read, and did math in their heads. All this was a great idea at the time and we owe much of our subsequent advancement to standardized schooling but times have changed, haven’t they?

The Internet changed everything…

Everyday, more and more students have instant access to the internet (and by extension, the world) through a cellphone or a tablet. How far are we really from the web-class? The Skype-lecture isn’t uncommon in many colleges, and it’s reasonable to wonder if or when it’ll become the standard rather than an auxiliary tool.

And then we turn to online universities (more and more keep cropping up), which are, according to some, a more convenient way to earn a degree without leaving the comfort of your home, or, more relevantly, good for people with day jobs who can’t afford to schedule their lives around classes. If it’s being done in higher education, what’s keeping online teaching from becoming prevalent in secondary schools?

It looks like we might lose the physical proximity which has thus far been involved in education. Do teachers and students really need to be in the same room? Do students really need to learn how to read and write in cursive when everyone types everything anyway? Isn’t learning to type more important than learning penmanship?

Are some skills dying out? Should we let them?

When I was in grade school, my teachers told my mom that my handwriting, sloppy as it was, wasn’t something to be concerned about because I’d be using a computer more and more with my time in school. That was over twenty years ago. Now before we all start panicking about the school system churning out robots, we should remember that there are benefits to an educational standard, but we can’t lose sight of the potential kids have to learn organically, in the way that comes most naturally to them: some research shows that children, left to their own devices, do very well learning at their own speed. Sometimes they even surpass the students in private schools with professional teachers. It’s no accident that home schooling is becoming more and more popular.

What, if anything, should we give up?

We all have our attachments to the past but if using a computer instead of a pen and attending a class from home is a better educating tool, then should we stop resisting the technologization of the classroom? Many researchers think we shouldn’t. Writing by hand is useful for the development of kids’ motor skills and critical thinking, and we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the communal, collaborative spirit of the engaged classroom, and the kinship that comes from sharing a physical space. There’s nothing that says we can’t make the best use of technology while nurturing and celebrating the differences between students.

Sound off in the comments! What do you think about the tech-heavy classroom? Is there an advantage to the standard school day? Do kids benefit from being with each other and their teachers?