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Teach Students to Communicate

6:30 AM

In a recent blog, I described a music recording studio that had been constructed by students and teachers at the Beacon School (Music is Basic). The point that I tried to make from this post was not a thorough as I’d hoped it would be. So let me rephrase.

Stop teaching technology! Teach students to communicate!

Now that that’s off my chest, allow me to expand. There is a lot of information out there. The new information produced in 2002 equates to 800 MB of recorded content per person, world-wide. In 2000, it was only 250 MB of information per person. With this growing glut of information that is available, it becomes a buyer’s market. That is, information must compete for our attention.

Writing has been taught as a technology, teaching the rules and procedures for writing a coherent paragraph. This is why even the writing part of SAT tests seems to be based on, the more you write, the smarter you must be. If we continue to teach writing the way that it has always been taught to students in public schools, then test scores may rise, but we will fall further behind in the race for 21st century jobs.

If we teach children to communicate, then we do not merely teach them the mechanics of writing, but art of communicating convincingly and compellingly — to accomplish goals by influencing other people. In addition, if communicating in the 21st century means producing messages that successfully compete for attention, then at the same time that we are teaching children the art of communicating with text, we should also teach them to communicate with images, animation, video, and music.

Certainly we studied art and music when I was in school in the middle of the last century. However, at that time only a very few people ever had the pleasure of producing music. Today, thousands of people produce finely polished musical works from recording and editing equipment that they have in their bedrooms and basements, and many of them sell their compositions through the new digital bazaars. Today, it is not merely learning to appreciate the art, video, and music of others, but it has become as important to teach students to produce valuable art, video, and music.

The difference is that today students must move way beyond being mere consumers of information. We must make them skilled producers of content — information artisans.

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Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
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Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
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