One-to-One Pencils for Every Classroom

For this post, I am borrowing from John Spencer’s blog “Adventures in Pencil Integration” (with his permission). Middle school teacher Spencer creates a fictionalized Tom Johnson, a teacher in 1897 having a conversation with a colleague who runs a “pencil lab” in Johnson’s school. Spencer describes Tom Johnson’s “move into the twentieth century with paper and pencil integration initiatives.” Here is an excerpt.

“Do you really think we need a one to one ratio of pencils to students?”

“I think it will be valuable for students. It seems like it will probably enhance learning.”

“Yes, but they are already learning it in the Pencil Lab. I teach them penmanship skills and most of them have already learned to put together a document of words.”

“I assure you that I won’t be teaching pencil skills. Instead, we will be using pencils within the curriculum.”

“Tom, these kids don’t know the basics. I see how they treat my pencil lab. I’ve had four pencils stolen despite the fact that they are bolted to the desktop. Yours will be mobile. Kids snap off erasers. I’m just worried about you, that’s all.”

“I can’t blame him for being nervous. They already use his Pencil Lab for student projects and I’m guessing he’s worried that pencil-integration will eventually phase out the need for a penmanship class. Yet, honestly, he has done little to make the subject relevant. Do his students analyze the shift from an oral to a print culture? Do they look at the shifts in the world in an industrialized society and what it means for citizenship and for human identity? Do they create projects that simulate how people will use pencils in the workplace or in life? Do they write and read with pencils?”

John Spencer wants us to compare 1:1 pencils with 1:1 laptops and the hype that surrounds technology integration. After this excerpt was featured on Robert Pondiscio, “The Core Knowledge Blog,” John Spencer responded: “Thanks for highlighting the blog. You nailed it on the concept of trying to be satirical from both sides (tech is scary, tech is the messiah).

“You mentioned, perhaps unintentionally, it highlights what makes some of us find the very subject tedious. Talking about technology in the classroom isn’t exciting. Like the pencil, the real excitement will come when we can stop talking about it, when it is no more remarkable than the pencil.

“That was certainly intentional. Don’t get me wrong, I like technology but I hate the hype surrounding it.

Amen, I say. See John Spencer’s blog.

1 Comment

Filed under technology use

One response to “One-to-One Pencils for Every Classroom

  1. Years ago, I published a journal article about how having my students design web projects helped me fundamentally rethink what and how I was teaching in “core” subjects (literature and history). I noted in the article how the inclusion of erasers on pencils — originally objected to as encouraging students to be “sloppy” writers — seems integral to how we teach writing today, with a focus on revision. So pencils do mean a lot, metaphorically.

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