Obsolete? No! Better? No!

I woke up without anything to say this morning, and even less time. In an hour, I leave for an elementary school in eastern North Carolina, and hour and a half drive listening to a Greg Bear book.

But scanning through my comments, I found something pinned to yesterday’s entry, I’ve had Better Days. The last sentence in that piece was…

What scares me is a country that finds $369,000 for bio-metric security for one elementary school in New Jersey, but can find no more than $3,000 (three laptops) for every other school or five bucks and some change for every student, to replace centuries-old technologies (the book) with modern information tool. That’s what frightens me.

Admittedly, it was worded for the drama. But one reader, who used a login name wrote…

Please please tell me I misunderstood this post. It does not say books are outdated, does it? I am ALL for integration of skillls and digital literacy–but how can anyone say a computer is more important and more valid than a book? I find that statement just as disturbing as the current state of educational funding. BOTH are tools our children will need to master the use of if they hope to find any answers.

Perhaps I will feel more eloquent tomorrow, able to back up what I fully admit is an emotional reaction. I just can’t believe . . . I must have missed something somewhere . . .

Alan November use to start all of his keynotes with something like, “Almost everything that I say is opinion, and it is all open for criticism.” Well that pretty much covers my blogs. But what else can you have, but opinion, in times where everything is changing so fast. At my advancing age I can much more easily recognize when I am reacting to something emotionally and when rational logic is driving my thinking, and they are equally valuable (most of the time).

As I see it, the book is not obsolete. It is still an effective way to carry information through time and space. It still has some advantages. No need for batteries or power cord. It is more tactile, and we like tactile. Printed paper content lasts longer. It serves as a better culture memory than digital.

But as a learning tool, digital is far superior. It delivers content in a variety of styles and mediums. It’s content can glow, grow, move, and it can play with you. With digital content, you can craft a learning experience that manages itself, so that the teacher can concentrate on the learning — on the student. All things considered, I suspect that digital is more economical, and this will increasingly be the case.

And finally, is the book more valid than digital content. Well there are a lot of ways to look at this, but the bottom line, in my opinion, is that it isn’t the technology that determines the accuracy, reliability, or validity of the information. It’s the information, it environment, its author, and the reader. The machine just carries it. Books, newspapers, and magazines all lie because people lie. Books, newspapers, and magazines all get it wrong, because people get it wrong. That we could rely on print was/is a myth. That we must teach students to ask questions about all that they read, hear, or see; as a basic skill, as critical as reading, and as an explicit part of what and how we teach — and to care about the truth — is a matter of economic, political, and cultural survival.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.