Education comes in many forms – or at least it used to.
Back in the day, the vital business of teaching young people to think and learn for themselves – which is not the same as teaching them lists of facts, spellings or ideas of grammatical ‘correctness’ – was a conspicuously warm-blooded, human business. Things have moved on. Digital media may be cold-blooded, but they are an essential `part of the education story now.
Progress is easy to denigrate – there have always been people who’d tell you it was better in the old days, just as there are those who insist that teaching was better done using the old ways.
But before you think this is straying into the sort of ‘modern life is rubbish’ territory that it sounds like there is something about old school education that makes for a thoroughly modern synergy with the world we live in today.
Kids today, our kids, and hopefully their kids in turn, are part of a thoroughly technological world. The idea that they might be able to get by without knowing the difference between Amazon and Zoopla is as much of a fantasy as any 1950s comic book depiction of Superman ever was.
If self-reliance and practical discovery were the informative energy behind the exploratory, pre-digital childhood of our generation, that is precisely what we should be allowing our children to develop in their digital lives.
A digital education means we should welcome the idea that kids are being offered products that get them to engage online. Their online experiences are every bit as real to them as our ‘games’ were to us as kids. It doesn’t matter if their education is privately administered and that it involves someone making a profit somewhere down the line.
There has to be a crossover between the harsh commercial adult world out there and the cosier world of kids’ education. So what if the Superman franchise is licensing the brand of pokies your next door neighbour enjoys as well as the material your kids are picking up online?
What’s important is that in the crazy, mixed up world that exists online our kids are sufficiently informed and able to navigate their own path through what’s out there. They don’t need telling what to look at and what not to look at, they need teaching how to find the stuff that they’re interested in and how to filter out the stuff they’re not.
Formal education used to feel quite rigid, meanwhile, kids got their real education outside of the classroom. That’s still true today – it’s just that the playground is a lot more complex. We need to make sure that our teaching and our parenting is sympathetic to the need to cope with that complexity.