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Schools Are Removing Analogue Clocks Because Students Can’t Read Them

What do you remember about school when you were a young kid? Granted, the specifics vary widely depending on your age and where you grew up. But one of the hallmarks for many kids has apparently become outdated.

Remember learning to tell time?

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Of course, digital clocks basically tell the time for you. But a unit or two on reading analogue clocks is pretty standard for many schoolkids. I think I did it in grade two or three.

We no longer live in an analogue era.

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True, analogue clocks are aesthetically pleasing and perfectly functional. But it takes an extra second to tell the time on one. In practical terms, most of us rely on clocks that display the time digitally.

For many kids, the analogue time unit teaches them to tell the time this way in case they ever need to — then they grow up and rely on digital clocks the vast majority of the time.

Analogue is outdated.

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That’s the conclusion reached by at least some schools in the United Kingdom. Classic analogue clocks have been phased out over the years as students and teachers rely on digital clocks instead.

Modern students are mostly used to digital.

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“The current generation aren’t as good at reading the traditional clock face as older generations,” U.K. school official Malcolm Trobe told The Telegraph. Officials have taken notice, and they’re adapting to the times.

Trobe says that exam halls are going to see analogue clocks phased out in favor of digital. The reason is simple: students need to be able to tell the time during an exam, and digital is more familiar.

It’s an effort to change with the times.

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While school administrations are often seen as old-fashioned and unwieldy, Trobe said that this is an effort to make students feel more comfortable. Part of this effort is displaying the time in a way that they’re familiar with.

Digital is more precise.

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“There is actually a big advantage in using digital clocks in exam rooms because it is much less easy to mistake a time on a digital clock when you are working against time,” explained Trobe.

Teachers seem to be on board.

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In the Telegraph article, a few teachers said they’ve seen plenty of students who have trouble telling the time using a traditional analogue clock. During exams, this could be critical.

Where does it end?

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“It may be a little sad if youngsters coming through aren’t able to tell the time on clock faces,” said Trobe, adding, “One hopes that we will be teaching youngsters to read clocks.”

The world is increasingly digital.

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This is part of a larger trend, where more and more is accomplished using virtual space, rather than physical space. As we rely on the images on a screen, we can lose touch with images on a page.

Kids are more and more plugged in.

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The Telegraph points out that a doctor has warned that modern kids aren’t as good at handling pens and pencils as they could be. The culprit, of course, is an over-reliance on technology.

Well-roundedness is essential.

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“To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers,” said therapist Sally Payne. “Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills.”

It’s difficult for institutions, particularly the ones entrusted with educating our kids, to walk the line between embracing new technology and understanding old technology. Stories like this are signs of incremental change.

What are your thoughts?

Getty Images | Boston Globe

On one hand, it’s important for schools to be “user friendly,” On the other, it seems like there’s a possibility that vital life skills are being forgotten. Share your thoughts in the comments!

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