There are some very specific areas of current school curricula that will, in my opinion, become part of the dustbin of academic history simply because technology is going to make the teaching of the area useless. If these actually happen, as I suspect they will, they will force us as educators to start rethinking the areas of literacy that are important and those that are not.
Here are ones I can see in the next few years being DDT (Deleted Due to Technology):
Already, we see that Speech to Text software such as Apple’s Dictation which is now in iOS devices like the iPad and in the Mac Operating system is a major indication that the use of the keyboard as an input device is heading for the door. If I can, right this minute, create paragraphs with proper punctuation without typing a thing, then it os pretty obvious in a few years that typing will be a relic of days gone by. The new Dragon Speech Dictation software for Mac will allow users to record into a voice memo on a mobile device like an iPhone and have it downloaded into a text file on a computer:
Capture your thoughts while they’re still fresh in your mind using a digital voice recorder, or your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Dragon Dictate will transcribe the recorded audio files when you connect to your Mac. It’s easy to transcribe your own recorded speech into text. Simply establish a user profile for a digital voice recorder, and have Dragon Dictate transcribe your recorded voice quickly and easily. Don’t have a digital voice recorder? Use our free Dragon Recorder app to record your thoughts using an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch (4th gen).
Even now, the debate rages about whether we should be teaching cursive writing, since one can easily exist in today’s world without any knowledge of cursive. Indeed, the arguments FOR writing in cursive seem to be based not on any real world use of cursive, but rather a nostalgic longing for the past. Consider this from Mindshift:
Reading and writing are fundamental to learning. But as more kids read and write via some sort of computing device — laptop, tablet, cellphone — how we teach those skills is changing, and one significant change is the decision to teach cursive. When it comes to equipping students with “21st century skills,” typing is in, cursive is out.
In part, the disappearance of cursive from the curriculum stems from the Common Core State Standards (now adopted by the majority of U.S. states), which no longer requires cursive as part of language arts and writing instruction. According to the Common Core’s mission: “The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.” And the global economy, so the argument goes, requires students to be prepared to type, not prepared to write in cursive.
To me it’s not a cursive handwriting versus a printed handwriting debate at all, but whether rather we should we be teaching handwriting as a course at all? T those of us that are stuck in cubicles most of the day have a hard time finding pens, simply because we don’t use pens anymore to write that much, mostly just for our signatures on pieces of paper that were written on computers. Handwriting as of course, is doomed for the dustbin of history.
Along with speech-to-text capabilities killing typing, I can also see the end of essay writing, as it morphs into essay speaking. Long passages, instead of being written in the traditional sense of the word, will be written with speech. And why not? The same techniques are used to create a work through speaking, and at this time, you even have to SPEAK the punctuation. Actually, speaking to a computer and having it understand you is very CPU intensive and requires the speaker to speak very clearly and carefully. Look at this video of what the latest version of Dragon Speak for Mac can do, and then cast yourself into the future five years with similar software, but enhanced:
Reading Texts and Novels
Bear with me, I know that reading is the be all and end all of our educational system, and I know that what I am speaking is heresy, but consider this: Even now, electronic devices can read text to me. For instance, if I highlight a part of a text on a page in either my iPad or my Mac, it can read it back to me in a variety of voices. Kindles, iPads and most e-pub programs can read text. I can, for instance, highlight a large portion of text and have it read to me. Many, if not all of the interactive books that are coming out for iPad and Kindle have an audio component, which, in many cases is enhanced with sound effects and asides that make the story even more enjoyable. Visually handicapped students have been using the text-to-speech components of computers and before that, specialized equipment for many years. Most operating systems have it at part of the accessibility functions required by law. One trick that Mac OSX has is the ability to create MP3 files from highlighted text, in essences, creating audio books on demand. So, it does not take too much of a leap of faith to think about all texts and novels becoming interactive audio, thus eliminating reading as a major component of the school day. If that happens however, audio and visual comprehension will become a major literacy, and instead of teachers asking students what they just read, they will ask them what they just heard.
Already with programs like Google Translate, apps like Say Hi, and others the need for one to understand a foreign language by memorizing the foreign language is quickly coming to an end. Why spend two years learning a single language when I can spend $.99 and all of a sudden have 33 languages readily translatable, readily understandable,all in my pocket?
SayHi Translate speaks 33 languages and dialects, including English, Spanish, French, German, Mandarin and Russian. The app can translate between all of these. One of the nicest features of the services is that it uses a Nuance-powered voice recognition engine for 24 of the languages it supports. Thanks to this, you and the person you are talking to don’t have to write text into the app, which makes for a significantly more natural interaction if you are trying to get directions in a foreign city, for example.
Why one of the stated goals of any foreign language course is to understand the country of origin where the foreign language comes from, most foreign-language teachers I know spend most of their time simply trying to get students to speak the language and understand it. So if you can eliminate that part of speaking and understanding, with a $.99 translation app for your iPhone or your iPad, then you can spend more time understanding the culture understanding where the countries are in understanding more about the people of the language. Or you can just eliminate foreign language as a course of study and roll all that stuff in the social studies.
So there you have it, just a few of the courses that we now teaching school that should be eliminated in the upcoming years because technology is rolling over this particular course of studies. How long will it take for these to be eliminated? Good question; depends on how fast schools are willing to keep up with the technology, how fast society moves, and how long it takes for the teachers that teach these courses to finally give in and say “enough is enough” we don’t need to teach this anymore.
Just as we’ve eliminated home economics, blacksmithing, and Latin as courses, it’s pretty obvious that these are going to be going the way of the Dodo. What do you think? Are there other areas that are going to be eliminated soon because of technology? Add to the list below!