How should we teach students in a digital age?

Classicial Education Cathy Davidson Digital The contemporary American classroom, with its grades and deference to the clock, is an inheritance from the late 19th century.

If you have a child entering grade school this fall, file away just one number with all those back-to-school forms: 65 percent.

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.

So Abigail won’t be doing genetic counseling. Oliver won’t be developing Android apps for currency traders or co-chairing Google’s philanthropic division. Even those digital-age careers will be old hat. Maybe the grown-up Oliver and Abigail will program Web-enabled barrettes or quilt with scraps of Berber tents. Or maybe they’ll be plying a trade none of us old-timers will even recognize as work.

For those two-thirds of grade-school kids, if for no one else, it’s high time we redesigned American education.

All of the above is from this opinion piece by Virginia Heffernan after reading Ms. Davidson's new book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.

The argument for reinventing the American classroom is persuasive given what Davidson calls "the formidable cognitive skills they (students) are developing on their own.." And this is not about changing teaching courses toward a more "digital" education, but rather turning away from the "industrial-era holdover system that still informs our unrenovated classrooms" and returning to something that looks more like a classical education.

My favorite paragraph from Heffernan is this one:

Simply put, we can’t keep preparing students for a world that doesn’t exist. We can’t keep ignoring the formidable cognitive skills they’re developing on their own. And above all, we must stop disparaging digital prowess just because some of us over 40 don’t happen to possess it. An institutional grudge match with the young can sabotage an entire culture.

Anyone interested in the future of education and of the American workforce should read Davidson's book and/or read Heffernan's synopsis. I also encourage you to watch this Ted Talk by Sir Ken Robinson on how schools kill creativity.