Saturday, April 26, 2008

This Is More Important Than The Story Indicates

There has been some recent press about how kids today are letting their text messaging shorthand creep into homework.

Why do I think this is important? First a short regression...

I am of the last generation that learned how to use trig tables, log tables, slide rules, and the like. Literally my eighth grade class was the last to learn how to use slide rules. The next year everyone was required to get a four function calculator. At the time I figured they were the lucky ones. Later I learned otherwise.

Eventually I got to college and then grad school as a scientist. What I discovered was that because I'd learned those things the hard way, I really did learn them. The younger kids who'd learn by punching calculator keys never really learned the mathematics behind them. This isn't just some old curmudgeon talking. I have hard data to support it. In grad school, while trying to teach freshman Chemistry, it wasn't that unusual to start explaining how to do a problem and have the "student" say 'just tell me which buttons to push'. True. Sad.

OK, with that background, why am I so concerned about OMG, NBD, LOL, and the like creeping into homework? Because it allows students to not really learn. It rewards the short cut. But real learning is NEVER the result of short cuts. (One might also look at the recent story about how people do and don't learn math.)

The bottom line is that if we want our children, our posterity, to be prepared for the future, when they must be the leaders, we must lead today and ensure that they really learn.

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