Enough already with the Luddite schools

We have a great private school right next door to my house. It's K-6, wonderfully crunchy, and cranking out socially conscious kids at a reasonable price.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

We have a great private school right next door to my house. It's K-6, wonderfully crunchy, and cranking out socially conscious kids at a reasonable price. The teachers are outstanding, dedicated, and unbound by NCLB. So why isn't my youngest there? It's next door and almost affordable, right?

There's a variety of reasons, including my belief in the public school system, which, despite its own flaws, can offer a lot to the kids for free. We're also lucky enough to have a great little public community school in my tiny town that spends its share of time cranking out similarly crunchy, socially conscious kids, so I don't have a real incentive to spend thousands of dollars a year on the private school next door.

My biggest reason for keeping my kid in a public school (particularly one over which I have direct influence), though, is that the private school, like many of its ilk, eschews the use of technology, while the public school embraces it in any way its limited budget allows. I'm not talking about technology for the sake of technology; regular readers will know that I'm happy to leave the tech behind if it doesn't enhance education (don't even get me started on calculators).

I'm talking about developing a natural, intuitive understanding of the use of technology from a very early age. I don't want MySpace or Facebook to be novel or cool for kids when their friends start using it in middle school; I want them to recognize it as yet another social networking tool just like they used in elementary school to check on assignments or collaborate on projects.

I don't want kids to need to learn to type in middle school or use PowerPoint in high school. They should simply expect that assignments are to be typed and presented to their peers because that's just the way it is. When was the last time you hand-wrote something for your boss and your boss was the only one who had to see it?

I don't want kids to print out their assignments; I want them to ask their teachers on the first day where they should upload written work or where they can blog answers to questions.

You know what I want them to write? I want them to write out their math problems, but then I want them to scan the work (or capture it with a digital pen, Classmate-style) and upload it for peer review. It's a lot easier to make a kid show his or her work when the work needs to be good enough for other students to understand how he or she came to an answer.

I don't want kids to see a programming language for the first time in high school or college. I was using LOGO in the 4th grade and, quite frankly, I think that was too late. Kids learn language and the ability to process a wide variety of information into something structured at a very early age. I don't think that kindergarten or first grade is too early to be thinking about algorithms and how to solve a problem logically.

This, of course, means that not only do we need to rethink how we teach our young kids, but how we combine the best of the "Luddite schools" with the most innovative of the schools embracing technology. There has to be a middle ground. How many of you have found it?

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