Let's look at one of these key skills, writing. Writing is important for every worker in just about every job category, to be able to communicate ideas to customers or to fellow employees. It's also an important skill for the citizen in the political sphere, or with relatives and friends.
Right now there's a great debate among educators on how we should teach writing. Recently in the Huffington Post a great debate has begun, with lots of comments from across the spectrum of ideas. Some say we should go backwards, teaching students to write with pen and ink, calligraphy. They point out that the recently departed Steve Jobs was an advocate of calligraphy as an art form that makes one more aware of how writing works. Others say that we need to bring back the Palmer method so that everyone is able to write clearly and in the same format. Others advocate keyboarding: teaching students the home row and how to use all 10 fingers as they type on the word-processor. A small minority says we should stop spending time in school on all of these old-fashioned methods. We should look at how people actually write today, and we should think about how workers will be writing in the future. And that our curriculum should be based on how we write today, and how we'll be writing tomorrow.
For sure, technology affects the way that we write. From the paint brush, to pen and inkwell, to the fountain pen, to the pencil, to the ball point pen, to the typewriter, to the computer keyboard, all of these tools over time have brought us new ways to write the same words. And we as human beings have adapted to everyone of them. Those who are successful in the modern workforce are those who adapt their writing most quickly and most effectively.
My writing career began with an inkwell in my first grade classroom desk. Within a year of second grade, I had adapted to the pencil, and used that for most of my work for the next 10 years. I can show you a callous on my right middle finger to prove my pencil proficiency. The ball point pen was an easy adaptation for me, but the manual typewriter -- that was something brand-new. I had to practice quite a bit to be able to communicate with that mechanical monster. Then in short order came the Selectric electric typewriter, then the first computer keyboards, and now the glass keyboard that that I use on my tablets and on my smartphone. I have adapted my writing to every one of these new technologies.
But I'm using none of these aforelisted technologies to write this blog posting . Instead I'm dictating it. I click a button on my computer keyboard (or on my tablet or on my smart phone), I speak, and it writes.
So, to prepare a modern workforce, which of these writing technologies should we teach in our schools? We don't have time to teach mastery of every one of them. Which one will be the most essential for successful members of the modern workforce?