Thursday, September 9, 2010

Is the Adler J5 Junk?

I am hesitant to cast aspersions on any typewriter, but as I become more intimately familiar with the Adler J5 I cannot shake the feeling that this thing is a little junky. I'll definitely use it for the CTP, but I don't have high hopes for it's durability. Oh well, beggars cannot be choosers.

UPDATE I feel as If I have been to hard on this little grey soldier. He's a nice guy who's helping us out. Also, I have a tendency to anthropomorphise objects. Sorry.

The Pre-Assessment and Informational Meeting

I have finished the Spelling Pre-Assessment and have sent it over to the copy center. It should be done in a few days.

Monday after 7th hour is the informational meeting about the project. Students who are interested in participating for extra credit are to report to my room. When they arrive I'll go over a brief introduction and tell then what they will be doing with the typewriters. We'll see how interested some of them may be. I must start thinking of a series of interview questions about how students feel about their work. I want to come up with some basic idea (apart from the quantitative evidence provided by the self-evaluations) of how the typewriter impacts (a pun was intended) a students perception of his work.

I do need to find some basic care and feeding instructions about typewriters. I thought that I remember the US Army had some field manual about typewriter care that might be useful. I'll post to a couple of the groups to see if anyone has an idea.

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's Alive!!!

The Adler J-5 has been on the workbench (actually the counter in the laundry room) annoying my wife to no end. I finally worked up the gumption to attack some of the problems that made it unusable for the CTP (Classroom Typewriter Project). The Adler J-5 came from the Goodwill with some, what seemed, minor problems. The backspace didn't work, the carriage return lever was bent awkwardly down, and the platen was missing a knob.

The first problem; backspace.  I had looked at this briefly before I was distracted by other things. What I discovered was a missing spring on the escarpment mechanism. I didn't have any tiny springs but my wife does have those plastic no-pinch rubber bands. I took the smallest one she had and looped it around the spring post and the backspace bit and bob's-your-uncle.

Next, I had to disassemble the carriage decorative panels to get to the carriage return lever mount. Brute force and caution fixed that. Now it looks as it should.

Finally, the platen knob. The original is lost to the world of Goodwill. I am going to head down to Ace on Saturday and see if I can find a suitable replacement. It needs only to be usable. The aesthetics are inconsequential.

Another one ready for the classroom!

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.