This latest reflection/rumination is courtesy of my son, who is seven. This morning he is reading an old-school Choose Your Own Adventure book and comes across the word 'victim'. He asks me what it means.
I tell him to look it up in the dictionary. He replies with, "but you have one on your computer." I am taken aback, but I come back with "yes, but I'd like you to learn how to use a dictionary."
Later we are examining the book, and in the space of three minutes, we've found the word and its definition (being a Collegiate version, not kid-friendly). It occurs to me the exact same result could have been secured in seconds with my online dictionary.
Yes, some of you might be saying, but he needs to know how to use a dictionary (book).
It's my first inclination to scream "YES" from the rooftops of the world. Until I stop for a moment and ask why? Does he need to know how to use a dictionary because it's an indispensable, crucial 21st century skill? Or because it will make him a more rounded, less one-sided person? Because it enables him to depend less on technology?
Or because I'm holding on to some ancient belief?
When I slow down enough to really think this through, I find I cannot construct an argument that exclusively supports using the print dictionary over the digital one...or really, that he even needs the skill of using a print source.
My generation, the one who prides themselves on being able to "bridge the gap", as it were, is facing a burgeoning dilemma: what beliefs and practices should we hang to for dear life and try to instill in our children, and what beliefs/practices should be abandon to the winds of change?
My answer to this question changes daily. I don't know if there will ever be agreement.