Last Wednesday, The New York Times posted an op-Ed piece by Justin Hollander. The Tufts University professor drew attention to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's declaration of “war on paper textbooks,” and his call to replace them with a “..variety of digital-learning technologies, like e-readers and multimedia Web sites.”
Such technologies certainly have their place. But Secretary Duncan is threatening to light a bonfire to a tried-and-true technology — good old paper — that has been the foundation for one of the great educational systems on the planet.1
This common reaction to our move to digital and networked education is yet another exasperating example of our apparent need to define education by where it happens and the objects we handle to accomplish it. The assumption persists that education is to be administered through the proper and efficient application of technologies, regardless of their century of origin –– and that the publishing industry is best qualified to prepare and distribute the services of those technologies.
What's at stake is not what children carry into their classrooms, but it's the experiences that they take part in and what they carry away from those experiences.
My hope is that Secretary Duncan's war is not with paper, but with a one-way street style of education that revers the source and delivery of knowledge at the expense of our students' essential partnership and investment as they learn and master the practices of lifelong learning.
1 Hollander, J. (2012, October 10). Long Live Paper. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/10/opinion/long-live-paper.html?_r=0