I've talked about how I don't like all my students having desks because of the restrictive, factory-like nature of them. In my last posts, I talked about using lapdesks and my endeavour to find or build one that fits my needs. But I got to thinking: do I need even a lapdesk at all?
For me the answer is yes. These are One to One schools out there that have probably negated the need for desks because all the students have laptops or tablets. Mine isn't one of them. Even if I had class sets of laptops, I would probably still use paper for a number of things because I like the tactile nature of the activity. But if I had laptops, I might not need the lapdesk, just a hard surface on which to write or draw. In some ways, the lapdesks simulate carrying around a laptop.
So if I just need a hard surface, why not use a counter, riser, table, easel or clipboard? Why do I still need a lapdesk? I like that students can carry a small amount of their supplies and their planners with them. Because my students tend to work in several different places throughout the day, they need to carry the essentials with them wherever they are. If I had just tables, I could have cups with pencils and crayon in them on each table. But because students work on tables, counters, risers, the floor, bulletin boards, etc., keeping pencils in one spot does not work for us. Lapdesks work for us because of the fluid, dynamic nature of our classroom. The portability is essential given our non-sedentary, nomadic way.
I also like that the students keep their planners/schedulers/agendas with them all the time. We probably only use them for ten minutes out of the day, but I like the message that the organizer stays with you to keep you, well, organized. As someone who is not terribly organized and needs to be reminded of what happens when (which is why my life improved with the PalmPilot and iPod Touch), having a book or device on you is important. Now here is a strong case of a teacher's idiosyncrasy dictating how the class runs, but that is probably unavoidable given the personal nature of teaching. The lapdesks afford keeping the planners with my students.
But isn't keeping a lapdesk against the idea that learning happens everywhere, (i.e. that we learn without having to rely on schooly trappings)? Yes, it probably does. I see the concept of organic, personalized learning as a continuum. Though I am moving away from standardization, from desks and uniforms, from whole class novels, from lecture and test only instruction, I still do a number of things that can be seen as traditional. I still have students raise their hands in full class lessons. I still give whole class lessons where I am telling my students what to do and how to do things. I still have students line up to go from room to room. I guess I still do these things because I was raised and trained from the traditional paradigm, and so it is difficult for me to see beyond what I've always done.
The lapdesk is perhaps one of these remnants of my traditional leanings. But I like to think that it is at least a step in the right direction. For me.