There’s an early scene in 2009’s “Star Trek” movie that shows the boy Spock in school. While sitting in one of several dozen sub-floor pods, he’s rabidly bombarded with math and philosophy questions enveloped by a 360-degree virtual reality screen and cool computerized voice.
(A nifty homage to a similar scene from 1986’s “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”)
It’s a complete teaching and testing system without a teacher in sight.
A fantastic, sci-fi view on the future of our educational process…
Or is it?
Hello, Cyber School Teacher
My son has been experiencing kindergarten for the last few months. One day a few weeks back, I came home and found my son and wife at the dining room table looking intently at my wife’s MacBook Pro.
(It was like he had suddenly learned to read, found my blog and realized he’s a topic of this ongoing conversation!)
I walked closer and heard a new voice coming from the laptop. It was talking to my boy:
“What significant contribution to bioengineering was made on the Loonkerian outpost of Klendth?“
“The Universal Atmospheric Element Compensator.”
…Okay, those are lines from the “Star Trek IV” scene between the adult Spock and the Vulcan computer.
What was actually happening was a word recognition quiz for my human boy from a website called Reading Eggs. It’s a subscription-based tool that teaches kids to read for $59/year.
I thought it was simply a new resource my wife had found and was trying out. But it wasn’t. In fact, our boy had brought the entire idea of it home, because he uses the website at school.
In fact, his teacher had recommended that the students spend time with Reading Eggs at home.
(Part of their early homework regiment)
I know there are plenty of learning apps out there for kids, and we’ve used a number of them on our iPad over the past couple of years with our five year old. So computer-based teaching is certainly not new to us.
And of course I’m generally aware that computers have been completely integrated into all grade levels for many years.
But this was the first moment where I witnessed it up close and personal.
And in my home.
Of course, why wouldn’t the school suggest we use a good learning website, along with books, flashcards and sound charts that still involve letters and words on paper?
But I still stood there, trying to integrate this experience as a baby-boomer parent whose tech contact in grade school was limited to first-generation calculators and analog mimeo copy machines that created exam sheets reeking of alcohol-like ink no kid could resist from sniffing.
How Do You Feel?
I wasn’t upset. And I certainly shouldn’t have been surprised.
Maybe I just needed to have my little ‘Aha’ moment.
And acknowledge how ‘fascinating’ it all was… the similarity this scene had to the Vulcan learning process expressed in both “Star Trek” flicks.
I just had to recognize the presence of computers already so close to the center of my son’s formal education process.
And how do I really feel about all of this?
To quote another line from “Star Trek IV”…
I feel fine.