When I worked in education, I once moderated a round table discussion where a group of people felt their school district needed to devote more resources to teaching "soft skills" like writing and oral communication. They said the digital age, rife with fancy mobile technology and "likes" and "twittering," had eroded students' communication skills so severely that one local business owner started complaining he couldn't hire high school kids
Their opinions really stuck with me, because these are genuine and valid concerns about how technology is changing the way we communicate. Kids, they said, aren't writing complete sentences or looking people in the eye when they speak to them — if they speak at all. Chances are they're texting and Facebooking friends physically not more than three feet away from them.
The way technology has changed our attitudes is also cause for concern. When people don't have to look each other in the eye to communicate, there's a tendency for that communication to be more blunt, terse, and downright bitchy. I've written about this before
. And Julie Halpert wrote a great piece about it not to long ago as well
. In her Mashable post, she discusses research that shows most teens (95 percent of which are online) cite texting as a primary form of communication. And that extensive social networking makes college students narcissistic.
Again, I completely understand the concern. I just question its intensity.
Writing and oral communication are very much alive and well in our schools. It's doubtful many schools have completely traded paper and pencils and actual talking for tablets and texting. They coexist in the curriculum. In fact, many public schools still ban the use of cell phones during school hours, unless specifically for class projects.
Perhaps if mobile technology were embraced instead of banned, kids wouldn't be as eager to bury their faces in it. Perhaps all we need to do is call people out more often when they're fiddling on their phones while we try to talk to them, or attempting to pass off the letter "K" as a complete sentence.
I contend that strong oral and written communication skills AND digital technology can coexist — despite the valid complaints from adults and employers. I also contend that people who have successfully mastered both are out there. They're also young, and likely looking for employment.
Perhaps they can't find these employers because they have no digital footprint.