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!