Thursday, August 15, 2013

Presentism and Time

 As I listened to the interview with Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock, on NPR this morning I was reminded of just why it is so important to continue to teach children about time using an analog clock and not  a digital one. It's probably OK to use both later in life but we ignore the value of teaching  about time using  the analog clock or watch  at out peril; or at least the peril of our children.

                                                          It is the analog clock face that gives children a sense of time. The circle made by the clock face is an analogy
for an hour, or, more indirectly, a day or a night. The fact that a circle has no end point helps children develop the idea that hours pass continuously from one to the next and that time is constant. The digital face also gives us the language of time in a spatial sense with a "quarter past",  "half past" and quarter 'til" or "a quarter to" (as they say in the UK). In addition, the analog clock face gives us a comparative sense of time in terms of elapsed time or how much time is left. Usually, when we check the time, we do so to see how much time has passed or how much time is left; we seldom look at the clock just to see what time it is.

Without any reference to the analog clock face the digital clock face gives us but a fleeting moment in time. It tells us what time it is at the moment we look at the clock face. There is no before or after, no sense of space. It provides us with no clues for making comparisons between two times; we cannot instantly decide how much time there is left. The digital clock face is the essence of "presentism" or, as one speaker on the radio show said, "immediatism".

I wonder what effects  "presentism" is having on children's ability to learn how to tell time?

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