Tuesday, May 17, 2011

15 reasons to BAN pens and pencils from the classroom

1. Too easy to lose

How many wasted hours do learners and teachers spend getting everyone a pen or pencil? They’re thin, narrow and roll unaided, designed therefore, to be lost through any small hole and from any surface. The average person must lose dozens, if not hundreds, in a lifetime.

2. Dangerous weapons

Nothing is more dangerous in classrooms than pens and pencils. They’re used to poke, prick, draw on and even stab others. Empty plastic Bic tubes are also superb pea-shooters. They are, in effect, dangerous weapons.

3. Messy

Pens leak, clothes stain, pencil shavings get everywhere. In short, these implements are a cleaning nightmare. A leaked pen in a pocket or bag can cause havoc, staining clothes, flesh and anything else that comes into contact.

4. Notes

Encourages bullying through notes and a notes culture around going to the toilet (actually walking the corridors or a sly cig), explaining why you were off that day (forged note from parent) etc.

5. Doodling

How many learners doodle the hours away, rather than learning. They'll doodle on paper, books, plaster casts and any available surface, even their own hands and arms.

6. Pen tattoos

A bit extreme but it happens. A compass an ink pen's all you need to get your first boyfriend or girlfriend's name on your arm or those stupid words LOVE and HATE on your knuckles.

7. Limits editing

To NOT allow word processing on writing tasks is to not allow reediting, redrafting, reordering and self-correction, the essence of good writing skills. It actually encourages the regurgitation of pre-prepared, memorised answers.

8. Paper mountains

Keeps schools stuck in a world of paper, which can’t be emailed or easily stored. How many pieces of paper with writing are simply lost, deliberately or otherwise by children at school?

9. Cost of photocopying

Paper, pencils and pens cost money, but that is nothing compared to the cost of printing and photocopying, in terms of photocopying machines, printers and print cartridges.

10. Not green

Paper production, for writing assignments, destroys trees, uses nasty chemicals and if it doesn't end up as landfill. entails difficult and costly recycling.

11. Encourages academic curriculum

Pen and pencil assessment skews assessment towards writing and away from performance. This has led to an overwhelmingly academic curriculum, at the expense of practical and vocational skills.

12. Paper homework

It encourages primitive, photocopied A4 sheets for homework and mechanical 'fill-in-the-blank' assignments, with the additional problem that homework has to be physically marked by overworked teachers. Automated, online homework and assessment is surely superior.

13. Red pen assessment

It encourages teachers to use ‘red pen’ marking, highlighting failure, rather than the generosity of formative feedback. Children learn from failure which is why all feedback should be constructive.

14. Skews assessment

My kids look at pens and pencils as if they’re Egyptian artefacts. The fact is, that pens and pencils, if used in assessments, actually hinder or skew the proper assessment of attainment. Many of these kids write, incessantly on keyboards, not using pen and pencil.

15. Real world deficit

Lastly, when they enter the world of work, if they write, it will be largely on a keyboard. Surely touch typing is a skill worth learning.

This was inspired by Katie Stansberry's original idea


Bob Harrison said...

I remember when ballpoint pens were banned from my primary classroom!! The teacher said it would ruin my handwriting!

I don't know what she would have said about a mouse?

Anonymous said...

When my children started school, I suggested to their Headteacher that the pencil was a barrier to learning, since they could both already type to a degree but were struggling with motor skills of writing. Predictably, she didn't agree.

Harold Jarche said...

Slide rules - now those should be banned for sure!

Rachael said...

Very true. And torturous for kids pushed into handwriting practise when the rest of us type away happily in the outside world... outrageous!

Eugenio said...

I can't believe what I have read in some comments. I think everyone must be able to write with a pen AND a keyboard.

Vance Stevens said...

Hey Eugenio, thanks for commenting here. I think most of this including the original post is tongue in cheek, a good example of F.U.N.

Speaking of can't believe what I'm reading in the comments, though, check out the comments to what I think is an interesting twist on intuition by Trent Batson, here: http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2011/05/18/The-Classroom-is-Distance-Learning-While-the-Web-is-Connected-Learning.aspx?Page=1

I can't believe what I'm reading in those comments! What's your take? Is it me??

Rob Alton said...

I rarely use them these days, but they are very handy when there is no power or when handheld devices run out of juice.

There be a word for the feeling experienced when your phone/tablet/pad/pod/netbook is juiceless.

Pooky said...

What a great post! Please could I host it as a guest post on my blog - with the appropriate links back? www.creativeeducation.co.uk/blog

Unknown said...

One good reason to keep pens/ pencils

as human species we learn through movement and spacial associations. On a keyboard a "a" is an "a" is an "a" we have no way of associating it with a time and space association.
Also as the ONLY animal with a pose-able thumb which has been proven to be essential to our learning & evolution, it is not used in basic keyboard work.

sure PC's should be used more in school than they are at the moment - BUT we should not underestimate the value of writing the "old fashion way"

school is to educate for life... not train for work!

Donald Clark said...

Lighten up Mike. I assume you're using a keyboard to write this response. It was a light hearted piece pointing out the ridiculous bias teaching and schools have towards writing with these implements. I'm not saying 'never' use pens and pencil. You need both, it's just that typing is more common. By the way the most common use of the opposable thumb is texting and games controllers.

Pooky - feel free

ctl_alt_del.geek said...

Hi Donald, interesting poke. By riposte can I point you to an article "Laptopers in an educational practice: Promoting the personal learning situation" (Lindroth / Bergquist).

It is an interesting counterpoint to your argument - but couldn't help also mentally linking this to one of your earlier 'rants' about the Uni lecture paradigm.

Net result? Educators need to work harder to be more engaging. I don't really care about the medium (laptop / pencil / slate), but more needs to be done on contextualising a piece of work and letting students (with available assistance) get on with their own learning. Not doodling or IM-ing.

Carol said...

When my son was doing his GCSE's he was able to type much faster than write and in fact writing was a a challenge. He could type as fast as his thoughts. When I asked school if it was possible for him to word process his English and History exams in particular, I was told that unless he was dyslexic or had special needs then this was out of the question.

Sianny said...

You must be joking, Donald! In fact, I'm sure you are! Children need handwriting skills as well as keyboard, mouse and oral commands.

The problem is that students nowadays are so used to using gestures on Wii to get instant results. Sadly, 'life is not like that'.

Teachers need to provide stimulating lessons to encourage all-round capability.

Cilla Carvalho said...

This is supposed to be fun, right? I can't take this seriously. Sorry.

Donald Clark said...

Don't be sorry. It's serious and fun - these concepts are not mutually exclusive.

Darren Whysall said...

Great points, another key factor in the use of either is the purpose of any assessment. Are we measuring a student's ability to speed write or measure the transfer and retention of knowledge. Sometimes both or either. But I think this is often forgotten!

Unknown said...

But what about this:


Anonymous said...

seriously cant you understand that using a pencil is just as important as the computer because if we only use computers we'll forget how to communicate properly also it is much easier to spot a mistake when wriiten in pen because on a computer everything is neat therfore giving the illusion that everything is right. Computers give you all the answers in correct grammar and spelling, on paper you actually have to think not the computer. If we only use computers we have to teach children to type whih is just as hard a process as learning to write. I'm not saying we shouldnt use the computer im just sating pen and paper are just as important.

Steven said...

I am a student, I go to a private school. We use pencils rarely and use our tablets and laptops most. We still need pencils if we don't have electricity or if the sun reverses polarity..... however, computers are NOT a replacement for pencils.