Digital or Analog?


First trimester is over, and report cards have been sent home electronically. Honor Roll certificates are being prepared. Accomplishment is being acknowledged. Effort is being rewarded. Goals are being set. This is the life of schools. And yes, there is massive use of the passive voice in those first five sentences.

But do not let that use of the passive voice confuse you. Our goal at TPS is for students to be ACTIVE in their own education. As we work with our students, from the youngest to the oldest, we are creating opportunities for metacognition:
• What’s going well?
• What do I need to keep doing?
• What do I need to stop doing?
• What do I need to start doing?
• How do I learn best?
• Am I a visual learner?
• Am I an auditory learner?
• Am I a kinesthetic learner?
• Do my systems works for me?
• Do I know how to ask for help?
• What is my responsibility in my own education?

As an Upper School advisor, I have watched students assess their various successes and challenges as they sit with their parents in fall conferences to articulate a plan of action for the various aspects of their school life—academic, athletic and artistic—that need refining or a different approach. As an observer, I have watched fourth graders grapple with a new math concept, sixth graders listen attentively as their teacher reviews the terminology associated with citizenship in Ancient Greece, and kindergarteners try and tell time the analog way. Our goal is to have students become the active agents of their own education.

So how do TPS students develop such metacognition? They don’t take a course in it, nor do they read about it for homework. Put simply, it happens in a context. Children wait their turn, say “please” and “thank you,” and offer assistance to a peer or a teacher when needed. Such interactions are key. As our students integrate technology into their education in the upper end of Primary School and in Middle and Upper Schools, the facility they gain with technology will never be at the expense of human interaction. Our “digital” life can, at some times, enhance our “analog” life, but it can never replace it.

I grew up listening to cassette tapes. I became a master at fast forward and rewind, knowing I was both abusing the tape itself and wasting batteries. It’s interesting to think that our children and students have no idea what it means to wait for a favorite song to play on the radio. They have playlists and can pick the exact song they want at the exact moment they want it, bringing “instant gratification” to a whole new level. As they come into school and cannot have what they want exactly when they want it, we must remember that their waiting is a good thing. It is good practice to wait, reflect, delay and even sometimes, not have a turn at all. This skill—dealing with “delayed gratification”—will be essential for them as they move through their lives. By doing so, they are learning how to be part of something larger than themselves.

Digital or Analog? It is not an either/or proposition. Our students need both. We should be happy that a TPS education gives them opportunities to customize and have what they want when they want it…and even greater opportunities for delayed gratification.

About Kathleen McNamara Head's Up!

an educator in Independent Schools for over 28 years
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