HomeaccommodationOn Fear and Change

Quite a while ago, I stumbled across a passage from an old history book in which an educational expert of the day railed against the idea of switching from handheld chalkboards to paper in elementary/primary school.

My ninja protected tablet is a massive help with
reading. If I were able to have one in school, I
may have done much better.

He went on about how students would lose the valuable lessons only writing with chalk had to offer, how much more expensive paper would be and other arguments along those lines. At the time, I’d thought it was just an amusing little anecdote to history.

The more I learned about accommodating technology and the role of computers in education, though, the more I stumbled upon the exact same attitude. I remember hearing all about it when it came to calculators, too.

“We’ll have an entire generation who won’t understand math!” “If we teach our kids how to use computers from a young age, the won’t know how to write by hand when they grow up!” “Audio books will destroy literacy!” “Ebooks will kill paper books and destroy libraries!”

It goes on and on.

This attitude seems particularly vehement when it comes to using technology to ease the load on kids with LD or autism. “They’ll just use it as a crutch!”

As someone who grew up knowing they were dyslexic, and adopting technological help over time, I can comfortably say that although the tech is helpful, there are ways around depending exclusively on it. Technology breaks down, and if you can’t repair it, can be much too expensive to afford. It’s always a good idea to have a lower-tech fallback, but there’s no harm in using it when it’s available.

I think those fears stem from a discomfort with new things and the unknown. In many ways, they’re perfectly natural. We’ve all faced a choice between taking the leap into an unpredictable situation and sticking with what’s safe and known, before. In many cases, making that choice was the only way to grow as a person, right?

When it comes to implementing those sorts of changes for our kids, it’s especially frightening, because they don’t have the experience we do. I understand that.

The problem is, if we don’t take chances on changes, things usually only get worse. We live in a dynamic world, and old fashioned things aren’t always the best. The field of medicine is a great example of that.

When people still believed disease was caused by humors, evil forces or the devil, people died from things we routinely treat with medicine today. There was resistance to the idea of basic hygiene because of religious beliefs, and the idea of tiny animals (virii and bacteria) even existing was seen as mad by a huge part of the population when first introduced. Eventually, those changes were embraced, and we can survive maladies today that were deadly centuries ago.

The people who spearheaded discoveries and inventions like those faced similar resistance as those who are trying to implement change today, if not worse. That’s what always happens when the status quo is threatened. Those comfortable in their roles are threatened by the new things and react with defensive fear.

Education is the same in many ways. Those who were resistant to paper are lost to the pages of time, computers are now an important part of the classroom and so called normal students use accommodations like calculators for math, spell check for essays and voice commands for their cell phones.

While all change may not be good (hello, Common Core implementation), it’s not all bad, either.

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