This weekend, I got to thinking about how history measures time periods. Knowing that the Three-Age System subdivided pre-history based on the material make-up of tools (the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age), I'd like to propose a system of 'ages' as a lens through which we can view classrooms in recent years.
In considering the 'tools' that have been mainstays in classrooms from the time when learning moved indoors in North America, we can frame education into three eras:
The Slate & Chalk Age (mid 1800's - present)
Characteristics: records are temporary; memory is necessary
The Paper & Pen Era (1900's to present)
Characteristics: records are semi-permanent; memory for homework is possible
The Web & Keyboard Period (2000's to present) Characteristics: records are of multimedia and may be historic; searchability makes memory less critical;
In looking for links to support these time periods, I stumbled across a wonderfully concise explanation courtesy of PBS.
In identifying the Web & Keyboard Period, I'm naming the period after the tools used to write, but the implication is that we have to consider this to be a period where students produce content in as many varied mediums as they experience. The true tools would include microphones, cameras, and other evolving input devices, well beyond the keyboard and mouse. Remember, in 2006, YOU were being named TIME's Person of the Year, not for your reading and writing, but as part of "a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before."
But many educators are still tied to both chalk/chalkboards; and paper/pen remain the preeminent classroom tool. In order to hasten the arrival of School 2.0, a time when the norm for classrooms is for the world wide web to be ever-present as the 'chalkboard', "I propose we Ban Chalk!"
While initially tongue in cheek, this proposal is one that would demand teachers change their practice. We may eventually want ban or put strict limits on paper, but I believe that the fist step is to change the blackboard. The physical space that makes up today's classroom, is reflective of rooms over 100 years ago. Changing the blackboard to a projection screen or SmartBoard, makes a dramatic statement to students and educators that the game has changed.
The day when it is 'normal' for classrooms to harness the power of global networking by using the read/write web along with a range of multimedia tools can only become a reality when the environment is reflective of the learning that takes place within the space.
The Stone age didn't end when we ran out of stone, it ended when people abandoned stone tools in favour of a better product. If teachers can teach this historic concept, surely we can live it!
"It's time to step away from the chalkboard and to step into the present!"
My "Down with Chalk!" mini-rant began on the Teacher 2.0 Podcast.