Paper or plastic?

I get asked that all the time at the grocery store, and my response is always “neither”  as I hand them my canvas bags.

But this question is one I ask myself a lot in connection with my classes.  Except the question is really

Paper or technology?

I  love technology.  I  love  not having to deal with mounds of student papers.  I fall squarely in the “plastic” camp.    But sometimes, I think the “paper” option provides something that the “plastic” cannot.

Free  Technology for Teachers today provided me with another argument for “paper” – a  link to 18 Formats for Handmade Thinking in the Classroom.  The  ideas  in  the presentation by Laurence Musgrove are not  necessarily  earth-shattering, but they remind me that there is real value to be had by putting pen to paper.  He shows real student  responses to reading using illustrations of various kinds.

Like most teachers, I  frequently have students write in response to what they read.   It can take the form of freewrites or more formal papers,  and sometimes I have them create presentations to illustrate something related to a reading,  but I   never have them draw.     When I used  Literature Circles more, I always had an Illustrator, but that was the extent of it.

I am old.   I grew up with no alternative but pen and paper.  I am also a  fountain pen fanatic  and a journaler.   I love  writing  in my composition books with my fountain pens and different colored inks.    Is  that why I really love this idea of having my students  work in notebooks?

In two of my classes this fall I am planning to have students keep notebooks.  At  first I felt a little bad about this.  Was I being too “old-school”?  But I am really OK with it.  Just as in my own life I have not given up my composition books and fountain pens,  I do not have  to totally give up paper in my classroom.  Armed with the example of Laurence  Musgrove, I can even expand  how I use  this very basic  technology!

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