Just finished reading Katie Stansberry’s parody “10 Reasons to Ban Pens and Pencils in the Classroom” in Mind/Shift – an online forum which, according to curator Tina Barseghian “explores the future of learning in all its dimensions.”
Here’s a taste…
“According to a recent MSNBC article, 69% of high school currently ban cell phones. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a school anywhere that has enacted a blanket ban on pens and pencils. Here are 10 reasons to reconsider the widespread acceptance of these distracting and potentially dangerous implements.
1. Pens and pencils are distracting. The tapping, clicking, flipping and rolling can drive just about any teacher around the bend. I remember a happy indoor recess spent throwing newly sharpened pencils at the classroom ceiling trying to make them stick.
2. Writing implements are dangerous. I still have a small lump of lead imbedded in the soft, fleshy area between my thumb and pointer finger. It’s a souvenir from a mini-sword fight that occurred between my close friend and I in third grade. She won.
3. Pens can be used to cheat. Now that I’m at the head of a classroom instead of behind a desk, I’ve seen some ingenious cheating techniques. One student managed to write an entire history of media studies on the bottom of their shoe. I’ve also found forearms covered with vocabulary words, ankles tattooed with definitions, and hands dyed with smeared blue ink.”
Very clever stuff. And it got me thinking. Seriously, it might not be such a bad idea. And while we’re at it, let’s keep all electronic devices out of the classroom as well. No laptops, notebooks, Androids, Apples or Abacus’ either. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Overkill? I think not.
As a former English teacher and current brand facilitator, I’d settle for anything that would support simple LISTENING. If there’s nothing on your desk but your folded hands and nothing in your hands at all, the default position just might be to LISTEN.
Remember lecture classes in college? Those huge theaters of learning with the professor droning and the students diligently scribbling and furiously turning to the next page so as not to miss a word? (Historical Note: I’m speaking here from my college experience in the days before electricity. Today it would be punching and scrolling.)
There was never a lot of actual LISTENING going on as I recall. We got the words down, but didn’t always pick up the meaning, the nuance. And if we didn’t think something was going to be on the next test, we didn’t scribble or listen. We just took a breather.
I’m sure it’s not that different today. It certainly isn’t demonstrably different in the corporate world of my current experience. I make it a rule to separate my client from all forms of distraction – from scribblers to tappers to cell phones to intercoms to ipads – in the singular interest of ensuring silence.
Here’s the clincher. “SILENT” and “LISTEN” each contain the same letters.
I know. Deep.
But here’s the thing. LISTENING is becoming a lost art. In the classroom and in the boardroom. In Parliament and Congress and the Oval Office as well. Listen to the news.
Here’s an idea. Instead of bowing to the pressure of formulating a response before the speaker has formulated a finish…instead of making sure you transcribe every word before you start actually thinking about the concept…instead of focusing on the expression of your agenda before you understand what the other guy’s is…try turning off everything but your brain and putting your empty hands on the desk and…
Let’s bring back LISTENING!