do we need educational pencil degrees?

Sometimes I wish that I could hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign around my neck and wear it at places where it is socially acceptable to be intrusive. I'd wear it at church, during the "shake hands with each other," time. I'm not so great at sharing the peace. I'd prefer to keep my peace to myself.

I'd also wear it on train rides, where it is openly acceptable to talk politics or religion or anything else one considers personal.

Tonight, I want to hold the sign up at a diner.

"Is that homework?" a man asks.

"Yes, it's part of my Pencils in Society class."

"Oh, I see. Is that part of your master's degree?" the guy asks.

"Yes, it is," I add avoiding eye contact.

"Seems like a silly degree to me," he continues.

"I beg your pardon," I finally look up.

"Well, it's just that pencil advocates always complain about not being included in the conversations about education. Yet, they have their own pencil conferences and pencil degrees and pencil plogs. I mean, last time I checked, there was an entire category on the 1896 Eduplogger Awards dedicated to pencil plogs. Don't get me wrong, I use pencils. I should state that outright. I use pencils everyday in my job. Love them. I carry one around with me in my pocket. On a bad day, I worry that it might puncture my scrotum, but on most days, they become a part of daily life."

"I'm not sure where you're going with this," I add.

"Well, we don't have a separate world in the workforce that's all about pencils. If I go to a leadership conference, we use pencils. If I go to a workplace productivity conference, we use pencils. But I would never feel the need to get a whole degree in Pencil Business or attend a Business Pencils Conference."

"I see your point. But these venues are necessary as long as we are shut out of the dialogue on curriculum and instruction."

"As long as educational technology and education remain separate entities, both will exist in a fantasy world of tech-denial or technophilia. See, we'll have all these people gushing about new gadgets in our Brave New Industrial World. We'll hear about connectivity of the telegraph and the global community and all of that and if we're not careful, we'll miss the reality that there are some dark sides to industrialization. Meanwhile, we'll have a separate faction advocating a 'back-to-basics' approach that plays on fear and nostalgia. I'm guessing you're of the technophilia camp, right?"

"I love technology, but I'm no technocrat. My students use paper and pencil, but they also criticize the role of industrialization, the loss of community with technology and the dangers of developing a vapor-self when moving toward a text-based personna."

"I'm glad. We need people who use technology to be focussed on the human element first. But here's the thing: wouldn't you be better off introducing technology to people involved in leadership and curriculum and policy?"

I'm wishing for my Do Not Disturbed sign. Right now I am definitely disturbed.


  1. I want to add that I am glad I was able to get a degree in Ed Tech and I think it has mattered for me. I was in a very practical program that was also very open, so it gave me time to learn things that I really wanted to know after being frustrated so many times in school trying things. At school my title is Technology Instructional Partner and the idea is that I partner with teachers to help them use technology effectively while they help me connect to the curriculum. It seems like a good idea, but sometimes everyone's focus still seems to be on the pencil.

  2. I'm glad I earned an Ed Tech degree as well. I wrote this story, not because I necessarily agree with the point, but as a challenge to what I believe.