We had a houseful of company last weekend: my sister, Claudia and her husband,Dan, and their oldest son,Jacob; my daughter, Kristin, her husband, Trail, and their four children; and our son, Rob. We had a great time, celebrating a birthday, going to watch Dan and Claudia’s youngest son, Jesse, play hockey and simply hanging out together at our house. A much-needed upgrade to the family gathering areas was a new whiteboard which was placed in the kitchen. Tirzah, our youngest granddaughter, was quite interested in it. She was particularly happy that it was on the wall at just about her height. Claudia saw her standing in front of it, marker in hand.She said, “Tirzah – you are in kindergarten this year. Will you write your name on the whiteboard for me?” “No,” said Tirzah, “but I will write this…” and she proceeded to write: http://. Claudia was flabbergasted, but managed to keep her surprise to herself and praised Tirzah for her writing skills.
Later, Claudia shared the story with Kristin and me. Both of us were stunned – not because Tirzah was able to write (thank you Mrs. Johnson, Tirzah’s wonderful kindergarten teacher), but because of what she had chosen to write. Those of us who were born and educated during the years when paper and the printed word reigned supreme, marvel at the ease with which children learn their way through the digital world . But what does it mean when a kindergartener’s first word of choice to write is not her name,or even “Mommy” or “Daddy,” or a real word of any kind, but the introduction to a URL,
the ubiquitous “http://“?
I am not an alarmist; I look forward to the future and am excited to be living in these days of a fast-moving, ever-expanding digital universe, but I have to say, Tirzah’s whiteboard writing experience has made me stop and think about the differences between a 20th and 21st Century kindergarten education.