Apparently, my teacher supply list for next year is unacceptable (I always hear that in Supernanny’s voice – “unasseppable.”) It included a spiral and index cards and folders for notes. Those requests, it turns out, kicked me smack out of the “21st Century Teacher” club.


In this technology mad/happy society, my little corner of the education world is joining the ranks of those who choose to get as close as possible to paperless classrooms. Each of my students next year will be the proud recipient of a district-supplied tablet and will have access to classroom laptops which, it seems, thrusts my classroom into the 21st century, even if the lady up front is still hanging on pretty firmly to the last half of the previous century.

So what about my vocabulary flashcards? There’s an app for that. Well, okay, I knew that. Even I use that one to show them up front on the screen. It even looks like an index card with the blue and red lines. It is cool – tap it to flip it over, swipe it off to get to the next one. No more hole-punching index cards or finding them on the floor of the classroom or trying to decipher handwriting. Fine. I’m in with the flashcards – check index cards off my list.

Spiral for writing? Come on. Everybody needs – Well, okay, I guess they could use the notebook function. I mean, I MUCH prefer to type than to handwrite, so I can see that. And of course there’s an app for that which gives them access to word processing and email. Fine, fine. Kill the spiral.

And before I bought individual write on/wipe off tablets, someone mercifully stopped me and let me know there’s an app for that too. Write on with their finger, swipe to erase.

I’m in with these innovations. Not a bad idea, really. But what about the rest of it? Textbooks on line? Books in e-format? What happens to the turning of a real page, the scratching sound of pencils on real paper? They can read, write, practice, figure, research, create without ever touching a piece of paper or a book. And that makes mine a 21st century classroom.

Do I sound like a scribe with the advent of the printing press, or my parents with the coming of new math, or the older librarian when they lugged the wood and paper card catalog out of the building and put in half a dozen computers instead when I say all these changes… well, they make me a little sad? I know change has to happen. Good heavens, in my lifetime the changes have been whiplash-inspiring. I can, however, agree to the changes without embracing the changes. I will have a 21st Century Classroom, but my students will have a 20th Century Teacher who will be happy to help them on their way in this technological universe, learning with and from them. But she will also enjoy introducing them to the fine art of turning real pages and the smell of sharpened pencils and the thrill of unfolding a piece of paper to find the gift of writing inside.

I set aside my e-reader to type this on the most current laptop and will post it to the World Wide Web when I’m finished. But I looked up a bit ago from my desk piled high with books and papers and folders to see a student chewing on the end of a pencil while contemplating the best way to word a sentence and it made me smile.

For right now, that’s balance enough for me.


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