Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Classroom Typewriter Project

The name is not set in stone, but the idea is beginning to bloom! I posted this to the typewriter forum. It could be the start of something great:

I have an idea for a project that needs the assistance of the typewriter enthusiast community. I teach English at an inner-city high school in Phoenix Arizona. My school is filled with under-privileged students. Many of them have significant challenges at home and school is their only refuge. It can be difficult to get them to express their ideas in writing. They have ideas, but find the method of delivery a little too distracting. A computer is no longer a tool to do work. It is a task-avoidance machine with blinking lights and fancy graphics. Young minds are too easily led astray by the lurid glow of the internet, games, and talking paperclips. These kids need to focus on the process of writing. I want to give my students a chance to slow down and write; to be at home with their thoughts. You can help by donating a typewriter to my students.

Why a typewriter? The typewriter’s only purpose is to make your ideas and words neat and organized. No spell checker means that you need to be careful. Also, I have one on my classroom desk and I use it frequently. My students love it and ask to type on it. What better than saying, “Here’s your typewriter. Treat it well and write whatever you want.” Now that’s creativity!

To help me with this project, I need old portable or desktop manual typewriters; 32 of them to be precise. They can be any vintage or any brand. Hopefully they will have new or newer ribbons. The typewriters do not need to be in pristine condition. The only requirement is that the typewriter is mechanically sound. You can either donate or Long-Term-Lend your typewriter.

Donating: I have talked to the powers that be. You can donate old manual typewriters worth less than $300 directly to my classroom. After your donation, they will be barcoded and added to the checkout list. That means that I personally must return them to the library every year to be stored. They will not be left out and stolen (as if). They will be stored securely in the warehouse for the summer. In the fall I will check them out again and be responsible for their safekeeping.

If any typewriter you donate is worth more than that the school board will vote on the donation. After you donate a typewriter (of any value) the district will send you a letter of acceptance whereby you can deduct the donation on your taxes.

Long-Term-Lend: Lend us an old manual typewriter. We’ll keep it for as long as you want us to. When you want it back we’ll return it. Clean and ready to go. I’ll be honest; students are going to be using them. There is a chance that that old banger will be sent to the typewriter repair shop in the sky. At least it’ll get used.
We will be keeping a blog on the progress of the project and you will be able to meet the students, typewriters they use, and what they are writing. On my end I will be keeping track of grades and performance compared to my non-typewriter classes.

This boils down to your personal feelings on “technology” in school. Throwing computers at young people may seem like a good idea, but in the end it complicates something that is simple. They just need to write. Please help me make this project happen. I am excited about the prospect and the kids are too. I have personally committed to this project by donating a very respectable Hermes 3000. What do you have lying in closets or collecting dusts under guest beds? Contact me via email for more information or if you are willing to help.