Thursday, November 4, 2010

The pen is mightier than the digital sword...

Recently I have noticed a proliferation of "embrace the tech or you are a dinosaur" type articles and blogs.

It seems as though the current voice in tech ed, or at least the voices promoted by the mainstream publications such as Tech & Learning Magazine, take the cry from the mountain top of "you are not innovative if you don't embrace everything tech!"

This concerns me greatly. Tech is great, I love it. I have 2 active blogs. A website, wiki, Delicious and Diigo accounts. I use Twitter daily. Between the desktop, laptop, Blackberry and iPad I'm very rarely disconnected. However I feel this new wave of tech ed voices are losing the forst for the trees and being a bit to strong on the evangelism at the detriment of realism and practicality.

Tech is here to stay for sure, especially in education, no denying that. I love the fact that it is. However I don't think we need to forget the technology that has gotten us here, forsake our past in the name of your future.

What concerns me is the over-zealous, proselytizing of some of these blogs and articles that I feel will lead to a negative impression from those not as tech savvy as the authors, or those beginning to test the waters.

Or at least that's how I'm reading it.

What surprises me is how unwavering, un-accepting even, some of these bloggers are.

Below is a comment I posted on a Tech & Learning blog about the "death of the pen" which I believe is a ridiculous, and dangerous, notion.

I don't think the pen/pencil will ever die.

Here's why:

1) Even if I don't have one I can borrow any one to write what I need to.

2) No digital device is as light, compact, and durable as the pen/pencil

3) No charging. I was at the TL TechForum and I can't tell you how many attendees I saw frantically looking for outlets. I had my small notebook and pen and was fine all day, and I don't feel I've lost anything by having that information on paper

4) Relate to #3, with a writing utensil I can carry not only the one I am using, but multiple pen/pencil backups, still taking up less overall space and weight than my iPad.

5) Related to your #6 (6-It allows you to get to the thinking faster - With a keyboard you don’t need to waste your time figuring out spelling and grammar. You can thumb or type at the speed of thought without ideas getting lost in the process because you are provided spelling and grammar suggestions as well as synonyms when you “just can’t think of a word.”), I think it is horrible people rely on "spell check" and go digital so they don't have to worry about spelling.

I feel the written word is special and unique to each individual. Penmanship is more than just legible writing, it is an expression of the individual and their connection to the language and content of their written piece. Writing language expresses one's thoughts and experiences with a texture that is lost in the digital realm.

I type, blog, Tweet, etc. I have a laptop, desktop, Blackberry, and iPad. I love 'em all. But no, none of them can, nor will, completely replace the pen.

Technology is great. Integrating it into education is a wonderful and amazing ideal and very attainable goal. Student learning is enhanced and broadened with the use of technology. Technology makes it easier to easily teach to multiple modalities.

What concerns me is that forsaking things like the pen/pencil and paper turns a blind eye to the modality that is best suited by the pen and paper. Everyone does learn differently. Yes, technology helps to increase and apply learning and understanding. But what if a student learns best with the tactile feel of a pen in their hand? Do we forsake that "obsolete" technology just because it doesn't boot, sync, or actively collaborate with the world?

I love technology and it's impact on education, I just think it's misguided to think old technology is bad just because of it's century of invention.


  1. Excellent post. I share a lot of your critiques.

  2. Michael,
    Thanks for the comment. Good to know I'm not the only one thinking this way.