Is Technology Robbing Students of Basic Skills?

A Post from the curmudgeon side of things. How many students will be hard-pressed to learn skills that we consider “basic” or essential in their adult years? Has technology really rendered them useless already?

Not to sound alarmist, but students are increasingly leaving school without what many adults in the world consider “basic life skills”. Which skills are missing from their education may surprise you. Read on and see if you find them as essential as some do!

What Time Is It?

Students are increasingly unable to tell time on analog clocks. As future-forward as I am, I find it highly surprising how many students I have encountered who are unable to read one. I also find it somewhat disturbing. Analog clocks are far from extinct, and students should know how to read one at a glance (says the curmudgeon in me). With that said, there is a whole host of terms that students miss out on when they can’t read a “traditional” clock face. What will become of terms like “clockwise” and “counterclockwise”? “Top of the hour,” “tick tock,” or “work around the clock”? I think it is important for students not to leave school without being able to understand the mysterious, slow-spinning devices fastened to surfaces and arms everywhere.

Speaking of Language…

Many of my G7-12 students in the past couple of years have had atrocious penmanship. Schools are phasing out cursive writing and many parents (and students) are asking why. Given that many people in the workforce still use cursive to leave Post-It notes (remember those?) on desks and monitors, or to jot down quick ideas, it seems short-sighted to remove this still-active form of communication from schools. Whatever the justification, there is a generation of block-printers who will have extreme difficulty looking at handwritten documents older than ten years.

What Was That Thing?

As technology both inside and outside of the classroom becomes more and more common (and connected), it seems many people are losing their ability to recall information or are simply unable to commit to memory the small nuances of new knowledge. Spelling, for example, is suffering immensely due to the ubiquity of spell-checking software. Students are unwilling to read a paragraph of text to extract the information – they expect it to be presented in an easy-to-digest format. There is an argument to be made around the question of students losing the ability to think critically, but perhaps it is only an “old style” of critical thinking that is being replaced with something new and better.


There are no easy answers when it comes to what skills students need for the future, but it seems premature to throw out many of the still-used skills many people rely on day-to-day. It still boggles my mind to think of someone looking at Big Ben and not understanding why it is making that racket.

Author: Carl Dennis

MEd Candidate at UOIT. Game, EdTech and computer lover.

One thought on “Is Technology Robbing Students of Basic Skills?”

  1. None of these skills are considered basic for anyone under 70. Almost everyone has a mobile phone so the need to read an analogue clock is basic because …? Handwriting – who does that anymore? Not really a life skill. Spelling? Seriously? Computers enhance our abilities to do more. Clock reading, handwriting, spelling – basic skills 30 years ago. No so important now. Not too many businesses or universities claiming that what we need for the 21st century is better spelling or handwriting?


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