Monday, September 24, 2012

High-tech Irrelevance

As chalk and the chalkboard have been replaced in the classroom with high-tech, high-gloss so-called smart boards, they have resurfaced in the shop, the restaurant and the home, the texture and 'high-touch' proving irresistible. (In fact, 'blackboard' paints now make it possible to turn just about any surface into a blackboard or redboard or purpleboard.)

So, as distracted educators try to be so very relevant, shoehorning every new technology into classrooms in a vain attempt to 'keep kids interested', they in fact become less relevant. The truly fashionable now is chalk--dusty, textured, smeary, slow. The high-tech, instant and glossy, is so virtual and so fast that it outstrips our ability to stay connected to it. We can't touch it anymore, so we lose personal affinity for it. Of course we like the convenience, the connection to others that fast technology provides--even the intrigue of the new and the latest--but the speed and the visual orientation of it, with its illusion of touch (with the 'touchscreen' one touches only a screen and is never able to actually touch the object supposedly touched, the result being not connection but frustration), drives us to the slower and the tactile to balance our senses and surroundings. We seek equilibrium in slow, high involvement from our ever-faster, ever-sleeker virtual world.

Classical, Christian education is people-oriented, requires high involvement and is wonderfully low-tech. It is not, cannot be, instant because it insists on thoughtful consideration of ideas and words, not of images or activities to be manipulated on a screen. While the chalkboard may be gone for good in most classical classrooms (I am personally thankful for the dry-erase board), time and thought, human to human interaction, and the careful consideration of ideas are restored to their rightful place in the center of the interaction between teacher and student.