Anyone paying attention to changes in schools over the years will notice how evolving technology has altered the ways students learn. For example, iPads have replaced textbooks, digital whiteboards have replaced chalkboards, even the classroom itself has been replaced to a degree, with students able to take classes remotely over the internet. The question begs to be asked. Are analog clocks the next to go?
Technology hasn't just changed how we learn; it’s changed what we learn — and the kinds of lessons we value. As digital resources expand, some people question the importance of maintaining the old skills that were once required to survive in the world while others find worth in the mental challenge of doing certain tasks the "hard way."
For example, when word processors and computers became mainstream in America, it was debated whether cursive should be part of the curriculum. A similar discussion is now taking place as we consider the increasing prevalence of digital clocks.
With digital clocks everywhere, especially on the phones and computers that demand our attention all day, teachers are questioning what used to be a basic part of an elementary curriculum: Just how important is it that students learn to read an analog clock, anyway? Here are arguments on both sides.
While the value of teaching analog time-telling is still the subject of debate, it's already a skill in apparent decline among today's students.
Across the Atlantic, some British schools have taken note of that development, replacing analog clocks with the digital variety, according to the Washington Post, which notes that the same time-telling handicap applies to many American students, too. That's what an Oklahoma City survey concluded, finding that just one in five students ages 6-12 could read an analog clock.
An Unnecessary Stressor?
Some educators have decided to take down their analog clocks entirely since they were tired of telling students how much time was left in class.
British teachers said part of their job is to help students relax in school, and that having to read the clock on the wall while dealing with other potential stressors, such as test-taking, was proving to be too much. Some of the Brits argued that the stress generated when deciphering the time on a traditional clock simply isn't worth it.
A Foundational Skill?
Those who want to hold on to the analog tradition say that learning to read the format is part of a basic level of education. In support of that argument, the Common Core curriculum that guides what is taught in American schools still includes analog time-telling as a standard lesson.
Champions of analog clocks appreciate the mental gymnastics required of young minds when confronted with the big hand and the little hand. The skills developed in learning to read an analog clock, such as counting by fives and fractions, help sharpen students' minds, they argue.
Use it or Lose it?
The argument for learning to read analog clocks might also be compared to the value of knowing long division or memorizing phone numbers. After all, the old saying persists today: “Use it or lose it.”
Physical exercise could be seen as another valid analogy. Daily life doesn't require that we expend as much physical energy as it used to, but no one's arguing against the value of a good sweat once in a while. Perhaps, then, we need to intentionally engage in certain mental exercises — making computations that we don't actually need to do — for overall cognitive health.
Of course, at American Time, we value the skill of reading analog clocks and believe it will continue to be a necessary and important skill to know in the future. However, we do understand that digital clocks are simply better suited for some purposes. We're interested to see which direction this argument leads us here in the U.S.