Whatever happened to …

… The Pen?

How many of us have multiple devices, but no pen? Or even the excitement over getting fancy pens (like the Cross one)? Then there’s the fact that adults spend a lot to time not using a pen, but most kids still spend the majority of time in the classroom using a pencil or pen. What does this say about how we’re preparing kids for their current reality? Is there a good balance, and what is it?

Thank you anonymous for posting to the Padlet for this suggestion.  I’m always looking for ideas; please add yours.

This brings back so many memories – from long ago and as recently as this past week.

From a long time ago, and I know that it’s a local thing, but it’s my memory so stick with me.

I recall in elementary school that some of the older desks had holes for inkwells drilled in them.  I can tell you that I’m not old enough to have been forced to use an inkwell but I do remember someone showing me once how to refill a pen.  It was also my first memory that there might be something different about left-handed people.  I remember being told that using “real ink” was a challenge for left-handed people due to smudging  when writing.

Driving into Goderich regularly, we would pass the Sheaffer Pen Company situated on Highway 8.  I remember asking my mother what they made; they were the only manufacturing company that I recall at the time.  She told me they made the best pens in the business.  The gold standard in pens was the Sheaffer White Dot pen.  I put it on my list to get when I made my first million dollars!

Eventually, I did get one (but not the million dollars) and it was amazing.  Writing was so smooth when compared to the cheap pens that I had used previously.  It became a prized possession and I still have it today.  At University though, I was influenced by a Waterman pen that I borrowed from a friend.  Once I started working, I got myself a Waterman pen set that I used with flair.  I had a ball point pen and a felt tipped pen.

But Sheaffer and Waterman weren’t the only big names in pens.  I had a Parker pen and my parents gave me an engraved Cross Pen and Pencil for graduation.  I even have a pen that’s only pen in shape but stylus in function.

Once you start going to conferences, you just seem to accumulate pens.  I have so many that I’m proud of.  My latest, most unique one, was a Rolls-Royce pen collected from their booth at last summer’s CSTA conference.   At my desk, I have a huge collection of pens.  Quite frankly, most are from hotels or conferences but I do have my prized Sheaffer and Waterman pens.  But, I have something more.  Something you don’t have!

I have two friends who are wood turners and, as luck would have it, they both made me a wooden pen when I announced that I was leaving my job.  I love both pens and they never leave the house lest I lose them.  Of course, each came in their own case.

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So many pens and I haven’t answered the original post.  Yes, I don’t use pens very much anymore.  I’m more likely to ask you to borrow a pen than to whip out one of my own.  I’m so much more connected that everything is pretty much done on computer.  The once beautiful handwriting that I used to take such pride with is now restricted to those times when I need to sign my name.

I know that many classrooms today have data projectors and teachers use presentation software in lessons and students do indeed use pens and pencils on their end.  If they’re fortunate enough to have a laptop, they might be keyboarders but for the most part, I’d be willing to bet it’s pen and pencils for the most part.  I don’t know what the balance is but it’s an interesting question.

For a Sunday, what are your thoughts?

  • What’s your most expensive pen?
  • Do you have a preference for taking notes?  Pen and paper or digital?
  • Did you ever use a fountain pen?
  • Do you prefer a thick pen or a thin pen?
  • How can we expect students to write well if we don’t teach cursive writing?
  • How can we expect students to type well if we don’t teach keyboarding?
  • Are there challenges today for left-handed writers?
  • Have you got away from chalk and the dust that goes with it in your classroom for other alternatives?  If so, what are your tools?
  • Do you have an opinion about the balancing point for students between pens and keyboards?

I’d be most interested in your thoughts.  Please reply in the comments below.

The complete list of “Whatever happened to …” articles appears here.  It’s not too late to jump in with your thoughts.

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

4 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …”

  1. Oh pens! Beyond parking, this is one of my favourite topics to discuss. Your stories made me think of some of my own. My parents used to have a small desk with the hole in the side, but I never knew what it was for. Now I do.

    I love how some of your pen stories involved getting pens at technology conferences. I remember getting my pen from a vendor at BIT this year. I tried so hard to hold onto it, but just like all the other pens in my life, I seem to have lost it. I don’t know where all these pens go: it’s like socks in the dryer or lids on markers — they all manage to disappear!

    I really like so many of your questions, but was thinking of the typing one. I never learned to type traditionally, and I often type with a maximum of 3 fingers, but could type up to 80+ words a minute with this approach. I remember how fast my 1’s and 2’s got at typing because of all the blogging they do. Practice helps. With so much typing these days being done on phones and tablets, is a traditional typing style always best?

    Thanks for giving us so much to think about during these weekly trips down memory lane!


    P.S. It seems right that the person that never has a pen may ask some questions about the disappearing pen. 🙂 I may have just forgotten to add my name before I posted on the Padlet. Thanks for blogging on this great topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Doug, in Grade 9 I entered a writing contest at school. I’m not sure if I was the only one that entered or if my writing was just good enough, but I won the contest and received a fancy pen, with a case and everything. That pen is around my house somewhere. I think that was my most expensive pen, although I think I bought my then-fiancé a pen with something endearing engraved on it. I wonder if hubby still has it? You has so many great questions above but I have to say that I really like and appreciate Sharpies – thin or thick, the ink or colour is often nice and bold.

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  3. Thanks for the comment, Diana. I do like writing with Sharpies but haven’t mastered them quite yet. My hands are always covered with ink when I use them!


  4. I love Sharpies too, Diana! We use lots of them in the classroom, and when my principal put on an announcement to “bring a writing instrument to the staff meeting,” I brought a Sharpie. I must admit that I was tempted to bring a crayon, but I resisted the urge. 🙂 Our kids LOVE Sharpies. One student is insistent that “writing stands out the best with them.” I tend to agree.


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