Are you still wondering what other skills students are being taught that may just be outdated? In PART 1, I examined the concept of teaching time on an analog clock. Though it is clear that the future will be digital, students should still be exposed to using an analog clock because it does help teach other skills such as, counting on or counting backward. But other aspects such as teaching the archaic language of “20 till” or “half-past” or “quarter after” might not be a good use of our time.
In this rapidly changing world, I examined other skills we teach that may just be outdated. What about coins and money? What about reference skills? What about cursive writing? What about keyboarding?
TEACHING COINS AND MONEY
I discovered with my own children that when it came time for them to learn about money, they struggled while learning it in school. But I couldn’t understand why. I tried to remember how I learned to identify the coins and count money.
When I was a kid, you could buy a lot with pocket change! I could buy a candy bar or soda for 25¢ or less. So any coin, whether they were pennies, nickels, dimes or quarters would be valuable to any kid back then. Taking glass bottles back to the store to get the deposit was also another way to get pocket change. And of course, washing cars for 50¢ also helped! I also remember skimming a nickel or a dime from my lunch money and saving it to visit the 7-11 after school! Since it was rare to have any bills as a kid, coins were the de facto currency for any kid in the 60s and 70s.
HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED!
Fast forward to the 2000s. I hate carrying around change. I pay with credit cards or ApplePay. I rarely have cash in my wallet. Even the book fairs at school take checks and credit cards. When my kids eat in the cafeteria, they don’t need money to pay. I’ve already prepaid online and they have a credit. I don’t pay with checks anymore. I pay all my bills online through online banking. I have direct deposit for my paycheck. I can transfer money anytime with an App.
So essentially, my kids and I NEVER see the actual money used in daily transactions. It’s all virtual, prepaid or plastic. My kids also don’t get an allowance. I never got one while growing up and in my culture, allowances are not part of it. If you wanted money, you earned it.
A CASHLESS SOCIETY?
So what does that mean for students in our classrooms? They’re probably experiencing the same scenario as my own children. So think about it. We are moving towards a cashless society. I predict in ten years or less, cash will be an exception, not the rule. Maybe we should be teaching our students how to manage an online bank account or use a debit card! My son is on a trip to the East Coast with his 8th-grade class to tour America’s historic sites. I did give him some cash, but he also has a newly minted debit card. So for the week prior to traveling, I had him practice paying for groceries, gas, fast food using his debit card. Trust me, you’ll want to teach your teenager how to use that debit card correctly!
In my second grade class, we are currently learning about money and I encountered the same situation. My students really did not know any of the coins! So we spent some extra days just learning to identify the coins and their values before learning how to count different money amounts. It also doesn’t help when all the backs of the new quarters are different! And did you know the new Jefferson nickel has Thomas Jefferson facing forward rather than in profile? Even that was a surprise to me (shows you how long I’ve been NOT carrying around change).
SHOULD WE OR SHOULD WE NOT?
So the big question is: do we continue to teach coins and money? My answer is yes. Even though I’m sure that when my current second graders graduate high school in ten years it’ll be a mostly cashless society, think about all the math skills they learn while learning to count money!
They learn value vs quantity (5 pennies is the same as a nickel). They learn to count by 1s, 5s, 10s, 25s, and even 50. They use mental math to add quantities. They learn the value of saving money. They even learn some history when you examine who and what is on each coin. When teaching about bills, I taught them the correct way to fold bills and store them in a wallet or purse. I remember as a kid being told: “don’t fold, spindle or mutilate your dollar bills!” Google the origin of that phrase!
Keep on teaching money, though it’s soon to go out of style!
The internet started after I was born. So that means, I used the Encyclopedia Brittanica set that my parents had bought. I looked up words in a dictionary. At the library, I would use the index card system. In school, the teachers taught us how to use the Dewey Decimal System in the library.
I kept using those skills all through college because the internet was not much more than a collection of BBS that you accessed through dial-up (Google it!)
But once the internet became popular (though still dial-up), students and others began using it for research. But we all know that anyone can publish a web page and fill it with misinformation or incorrect information. Reliability and trustworthiness became the key. When I used print encyclopedias and dictionaries that was one thing we did not have to worry about.
WHAT ARE SOME 21ST CENTURY REFERENCE SKILLS?
What kinds of reference skills should we teach students today? We should probably scratch off print encyclopedias. Finding access to a set is sometimes hard and when you do find one, it’s usually very much out of date. Publishing companies would publish print encyclopedias on CD-ROMS (remember those?). But even a CD-ROM can be out of date with the information.
WHICH REFERENCE SKILLS SHOULD WE TEACH?
Instead, we should focus on identifying reliable and trustworthy online encyclopedias. Yes, Brittanica has an online encyclopedia, but it is not free. Most of the free online encyclopedias are ad-supported. Using an online encyclopedia can be daunting unless a school, a district, or parent wishes to pay for services like Brittanica for Kids online. Ad-supported sites can present their own problems as the ads presented can be content inappropriate for children.
What should we do? Trained adults should organize a list of websites by topic or subject that have been examined for appropriateness, reliability, and trustworthiness. Children can not expertly identify unreliable and untrustworthy sites. Teachers, curriculum specialists, and parents should be the ones to certify sites. Then we teach them to understand the concepts of trustworthiness, reliability, and accuracy.
As for dictionaries, there are many online dictionaries and some online Apps like Google Docs and Slides have built-in dictionaries and thesauruses. Teachers should teach parts of speech, alternate definitions for multiple meaning words and synonyms and antonyms.
Computers have now replaced the library index card system. The students can learn how a library is organized as well as learn how to use the Dewey Decimal System which is still being used.
THE iGEN GENERATION
The Millenials were the first generation to grow up in the Age of the Internet. The iGen generation is now firmly entrenched in the digital world and expects answers immediately. I predict that in the next ten years, personal assistants like Siri and Alexa will be the norm. But learning how to search on the internet is an art form. Children should be taught how to use boolean terms for searching (adding quotation marks, separators, terms, etc.). They should also be taught how to separate paid content from search results. Understanding how to narrow search results is the key to finding information that is relevant.
In PART 3, I examine the role of cursive writing and keyboarding skills as well as what new skills should be included in the future.
If you missed PART 1, click here to view it.
Don’t Go Yet!
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What do you think about these skills? Are they outdated?
Share your thoughts in the comments!