iPads, Laptops & Paper – n – Pencil In The Classroom

Well I was thrown a curve ball this year. My iPad cohort has morphed into a hodgepodge of new and old technology. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the numbers to run a straight iPad cohort so I am getting kids carrying everything from the latest and greatest in Apple and PC products to pencil and paper.

Now being one to complain (a lot), I am tempted to go on for a couple thousand words lamenting about how hard done by I am but I know I would not garner much sympathy from many of my colleagues. So I won’t! Instead I will look at this mishmash, as a little slice of reality, a true reflection of what the average secondary class looks like and carry on.

This year I will be able to write about realty, rather than an iPadian utopia.

For example, tomorrow I am going to have the kids write a journal response to the statement Highschool Should End at Grade 10 and instead of taking work in via a common app or digital format, I will be taking work in on Paper – Evernote – Google docs – Keynote – Microsoft Word and a holy host of others, because that is the reality of the modern classroom.

What I have also come to realize or perhaps resign myself to, is that with BYOD, a Personal Digital Device is just that a Personal Device. It is unrealistic to expect that everyone will be carrying one on any give day, never mind everyone carrying the same device. What I have also come to believe is that for BYOD to work, it is up to the student to make it work. The teacher can set the expectations around use and digital formats in which work needs to be done and after that, it is up to the student.

If the teacher takes on the role of the “director of the device” the classroom simply becomes a Twenty First Century version of the teacher centered classroom. If the purpose of BYOD is to help students become more independent learners, then the device needs to fit the learner, even if that device is a pencil and a piece of paper.

It is a brave new adventure in iPads In The Cla… I mean, iPads, Laptops & Paper – n – Pencil In The Classroom. Let’er fly and see where we land.

Wish Me Luck!


  1. B. Mercer

    My cousin recently saw her last son leave high school. Three of them had walked the expensive halls of a California private school. Ann noted that the demands on a modern family to equip their kids with every new gadget was a little talked about expense. The only phone in the house, use to be in the kitchen within ear shot of mom. Privacy was limited to how long the curly cord was and if there was a broom closet next to the phone. All this technology is not paper and pen and I am not sure if the skills needed to find your way and be happy are not right there at the point of the ancient pencil. Dare I risk saying we are worshiping golden idols?

    1. Post

      Thanks Blair,

      the problem is that tech is far too often sold as “golden idols” or perhaps false idols. I have written a couple times how I believe tech amplifies foundational skills and I would include the use of paper and pencil as a foundational skill.

      In my own home, right or wrong, my wife and I are forcing our own children to reach a certain competency “kicking it old old school” before we turn them loose with digital tools and it has begun to prove to be a fruitful choice, as my eldest daughter enteres high school. I also see it every day in class, where the most skilled students with digital tools are usually the most skilled without.

      We need to come to the realization that there is no blanket solution, no single teaching method or digital platform that will work magic. A foundation is what everything is built on and that foundation is still reedin N rightin.

      One Caveat: If a student has difficulty writing due to a deficit which impairs written output, digital tools can be a god send. As someone who was/is dysgraphic, wordprocessing was my saviour. It allowed me to escape the painful process of writing things out by hand and getting my thoughts down in a legible format. That digital tool is probably the reason I was able to get through University but I still learned (as best I could) with paper and pencil before the gift of wordprocessing, was bestowed upon me.

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