Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saul Bellow

"When I sit at a typewriter, I open my heart."

Find out more about the Classroom Typewriter Project.

The Process

Right now I am aiming to have four manual typewriters. These will be assigned to four students each grade period (5 total). This means I will have a cohort of 20 students using a typewriter for their daily journaling activity.

To assess their basic skills in spelling, I have created a two-part 50 question assessment. Part I offers a sentence and a choice between two spellings of a word. The student will need to bubble in a letter corresponding to the correct answer. A choice between two words will most closely mirror a standard writing assignment. Every writer, when mulling over the spelling of a word, will try to imagine other options. This assessment will mirror the mental process of choosing between two options. Part two will be more de-contextualized. The student will need to choose the incorrectly spelled word from a list of words. The word sets offer no logical connection.

I will take the raw score and assign each student a spelling ability quotient. A similar test will be offered over the course of the semester to see how well the students are progressing.

After some basic instructions on how to use a typewriter, the student will be responsible for typing their journal on a daily basis. After they have completed the journal, I will ask the student to highlight any words that he or she feels might be spelled incorrectly. Then, I will grade the assignment and compare the number of misspelled words to the number of words that the student has self-identified as being suspect. This will create a ratio of spelling mistakes to self-identified errors.

In addition to the typewriters, I will choose 20 other students to function as a control group. They will complete the same assignment, however, they will not be using a typewriter.

I will hand each student the work back and offer then a chance to reflect on their performance.

This information will be recorded in a database program over the course of the school year. Major landmark data set evaluations will be conducted at the 3 and 6 week mark of each semester remaining in the year.

As the data set develops we will be able to see a spelling trend and whether that trend is linked to typewriter usage.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Hypothesis

A student using a typewriter on a daily journaling activity will, over the course of a year, have a measurable increase in the ability to recognize spelling errors compared to a student who does not type the same journaling activity.

Next: The Process

Sunday, August 29, 2010


As we get into the swing of things at school, I can imagine that there is going to be some resistance to typewriters in the classroom. I am sure that someone is going to make claims that computers are more efficient and better. I will have to direct them to Richard Polt's new blog Writing Ball.

For kinesthetic learners (an intelligence that is rarely played to in education today) typewriters will be a boon. There is tactile feedback with every key you press. Every time the printhead strikes the paper the satisfying "whack" is a public symbol of your commitment to the idea; your ideas. Everything you write is out there. Your mistakes become part of the document and process becomes more important than outcome.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Richard Wright

Royal Arrow

T. S. Eliot

My favorite poet!

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.