So, last year, we're at the Pencil Integrated Education (PIE) Conference. Educators are quit fond of acronyms, but this year it was a little awkward. Apparently, a whole sleuth of culinary enthusiasts arrived on a train only to realize that our conference was more about learning with paper than cooking with crust.
"Hey Tom, you should check this out," my best friend says. "Have you ever heard of this?"
We walk over to a booth where a man is advertising an organizational structure for classrooms. "What is this?" I asked the man.
"This is Chalkboard. It's a course management system. You get it all in one package. We will ship you a few boxes and you'll get a binder for every student, a gradebook for yourself and several folders to store student work."
"I'm impressed," I tell him.
My buddy holds the binder, "Look at this. There is a built-in calendar so that students can write their assignments and keep track of grades. There are tabs with all the categories chosen ahead of time. Seriously, this is genius, Tom. You should get your district to buy these if you're going to get that one-to-one pencil to student ratio next year."
"I know. I would just collect binders, do some binder checks and record the grades in the grade book. It's so easy."
At this point, a woman walks up and begins perusing the binder. "I'm not really a teacher. I'm a pie enthusiast and by that I mean apple pie and not the number that never ends. I couldn't help but notice your excitement over this. It's a binder. What's so special about that?"
"Are you serious? It's a whole organizational system," I share.
"Yes, but aren't you already organized as a teacher?"
"Sure, but this does it for me."
"Wouldn't it make more sense to develop something a little more organic for your own needs. You know, if someone tried to organize my recipe cards for me, I'd get angry. I very well might whack them with a rolling pin. Besides, don't you want students to learn to organize information on their own."
"I suppose, but this is more efficient."
"Don't confuse efficiency for effectiveness. Why not just tell kids to organize their work according to their own needs? It could be a folder or a binder or a back pocket for all I care. Aren't you more concerned with learning than with organizing assignments?"
I'm beginning to think the pie lady was right.