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Pitching Through the Millennia

Aug 30, 2018

By: Joshua Bolkan

I’m generally a competitive person, often even in situations where it’s not totally appropriate. Once, when my daughter was about 10, we were playing air hockey and she scored on me.

“Pull it together, Bolkan,” I told myself under my breath. “You can’t let those past you.”

But one of my favorite ways to spend my free time is playing disc golf, and on the golf course, I never keep score. I can’t imagine not feeling an atavistic cheer when I see another person throw a disc and hit their target.

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Human beings are the only species that can throw objects with both great force and great accuracy. Throwing is also one of the earliest uses of human technology. Using spears or rocks or atlatls greatly expanded our ability to hunt, allowing for a division of labor, and requiring the passing along of knowledge of how to make those tools.

 

Throwing tools are communal, then. Humans don’t hunt alone, and they need to teach each other how to pick the best materials, how to shape them for balance and weight and, eventually, an edge. More efficient hunting allowed for more sharing of food and more complex social structures.

 

In that respect, throwing tools are much like another ancient human technology that is both dependent upon and encouraging of community: Storytelling. Stories helped early humans teach each other how to make and use technology, and stories still do that today.

 

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Growing up, I always had my nose in a book, usually science fiction. In grades 4 and 5, I read so much in class my teachers actually took books away from me and learned not to return them until the end of the year. I always knew I’d be a storyteller when I grew up, so journalism school was a natural fit. When I landed my first staff spot at an edtech magazine, I couldn’t believe my good luck. I didn’t just get to tell stories, I got to tell stories about people using technology to improve the world, to shape the future in one of the most fundamental ways possible: through the education of children.

 

As an edtech reporter and daily news editor, I had the opportunity to learn more about education and technology’s role in teaching and learning than I suspected there was to know. From policy to pedagogy, from the bricks and mortar of classroom design to the promise of nearly limitless access of distance learning, I’ve had the privilege to explore just about every corner of the edtech universe through the questioning, skeptical eye of a journalist. Now, I’m eager to use that breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm for technology and learning to take an evangelical approach to new learning tools instead.

Today’s edtech tools are a lot cooler than a sharp stick, and the stories we at PRP tell are reaching much further than the warmth of a campfire, but in the end, they’re both looking to do what those older technologies did tens of thousands of years ago. They’re designed to help people, to expand their choices, to improve their lives, to bring them together and create a community.

So join me next to the fire (or in the screen glow of a conference call) and show me the tools you’re making. I’ll cheer the same way I might if you took down dinner or made a beautiful shot on the golf course, and then I’ll get to work letting the rest of the tribe know. We’re pretty good at this. We’ve been doing it for thousands for years.

Thanks for sharing!

   

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