Returning for a visit to the old school.


When I saw this photo, I loved it. I immediately placed it in my classroom because it represents the balance; the other side of the scale. I understand that technology is here to stay and will only become increasingly more present in the classroom and in learning in general. At our school, we have I-pad integration in the classroom, we share files electronically through google docs, we research on the internet, we blog and then there is all the social media stuff too. I think it is very important to balance this world with the world of old school; the times when I went to school or when my parents went to school. The old school is the paper and pencil way of thinking. It is about putting our ideas and thinking on paper. Taking the time to physically write out our thoughts, organize them and make sense of them.The picture of the crayons is meant to remind students that before they engage in technology usage, they need to think about what they are using it for , what they want to say and how will they say it. They need to first, grab a pencil and brainstorm on paper; sketch out their ideas and how they will present their ideas using the technology. Too often, I see students simply go to their I-pad, find an app and begin making their presentation. 9 out of 10 times the final product is not good at all. There is an incredible race to simply get to the I-pad rather than sit and use paper and pencil to map out thinking first. The technology is not the learning, it is the presentation of learning. Students need to storyboard their ideas, write out their thoughts or sketch an idea. Technology is a wonderful tool but must be balanced with old school thinking.

I seem the same issue with reading non-fiction texts. Students who use their technology to read articles seem to comprehend less than students who print out the article, grab a pencil and physically interact with the article. They write in the margins, they write definitions, draw pictures and summarize text on the page and in their own words. The physical interaction of writing is building a stronger connection with the material. Rather than be distracted by moving pictures, flying texts, hyperlinks and swiping up and down, students simply have a paper and pencil and their brain.

I believe the tide is shifting too quickly towards an ‘all is good attitude’ towards technology and that we need to stem the tidal flow to a more balanced approach where we incorporate a healthy portion of physical interaction with learning (paper and pencil) with the usage of technology.

4 thoughts on “Returning for a visit to the old school.

  1. Jennifer Keenan

    I can totally relate to being distracted when reading online. I do end up swiping and clicking on links and watching videos that show up on the sides or at the end. And if I click on a link and it doesn’t open in a new tab, I rarely end up back at the original article. I like how Michael Agger refers to reading a book as begin a spa and reading online as being Grand Central Station! link to

    Maybe I haven’t found the right programs to read in, or maybe because I’m a digital immigrant, it’s hard for me to find information that I want to refer back to. I started keeping a document for each week’s Coetail readings where I copy the url, copy info I think I want to refer back to, and make notes about the articles. But it always happens that I didn’t make a note of something but want to reference it when writing my blog and I have no idea which of the many articles it was…

    1. Chrissy

      Hi Jennifer, in reply to your comment on Frank’s post (sorry Frank – I’m hijacking!)
      I’d recommend that you install an extension on your browser (especially if you use chrome) – something like diigo, or flipboard or evernote, or even pinterest, where you can click a little button (that’s been installed in your browser – usually in the top right corner) and it will bookmark the page that you are on. Most will also allow you to add notes, screenshot a section and tag (so that you can find similar bookmarks later) – this is great for referring back to in future blog posts you want to write.
      You can find chrome extensions here or google browser extensions for the “tools” mentioned above. Good luck!

      Frank – I enjoyed reading your post. I’m a big fan of DoF images and I really love trying to create my own ones.
      I’m wondering if you familiar with the notetaking tools that several apps/browser extensions have when reading an article online – very similar to pen/highlighter method.

  2. Disha Gadhia

    Hi Frank,
    I really liked your choice of picture and the message that it is supposed to send to students. Often in the Elementary school we see the same issue where students are just chomping at the bit to get to the IPad as if it is a race. However, once they actually get to the IPad they don’t often have a plan as to how they are going to execute their work or the patience to go back and edit/revise their work to ensure that it has been done to the best of their ability. I agree that technology should be balanced with old school thinking and having students stop to think and jot their ideas/plan ahead of time is very important!

    I read an article called The Importance of Planning and Prioritizing (link to by Laura Stack and she says, “Planning is the most important part of the formula we call time management. ” which I thought was interesting as so many of our kids struggle with the concept of managing time. By having our students balance technology with old school thinking we are also teaching them another important skill.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Rob Desormeau

    Hi Frank,

    I enjoy reading your posts because they really get me thinking. I like your choice of image and am very curious about how your students react to it and what that discussion looks like. Do they agree with you about how this reminder is necessary and that it really does help them? Are you seeing a clear difference between those who begin with the paper and pencil and those who race to the iPad. I’m sure the answer is yes, but I am curious to continue this discussion.

    I see the same things as you with students moving to digital presentations before too much thought, resulting in maybe not the best work and communication being produced. At the same time, I must say that I have also seen some surprisingly great stuff with the students. As you stated, technology is here to stay and will inevitably become even more present in schools. As a fellow middle school teacher, a philosophy I share with you is that we need to help the students slow down and think about what they are doing and why they are doing it and I think going back to the paper and pencil is a way of helping with that. I’m torn however, between whether that is actually what is best for our students because it’s what we know best, or if I need to be more up to date with my technology abilities to help the students develop digital tools that can promote the same idea of slowing down, brainstorming and organizing. Do you think some of the brainstorming tools linked at the bottom could help students better organize their thoughts digitally and get the same benefit as paper pencil?

    I have a couple final thoughts towards your comment about students needing a balance between technology and old school thinking. First, does what we interpret as old school thinking match up with what the students interpret as old school thinking? Secondly, I’m not an expert on this but, when the paper and pencil were first introduced, I believe this would have been considered new technology. What old school thought at this time do you think would have needed to be balanced with people going to written communication?

    Rob D

    link to


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