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Pencils without Erasers: The Scholarship of Making Mistakes and Screwing Up

Take a close look at this pencil:

It is called the "Scholar" pencil and it really lives up to its name. What if pencils NEVER had erasers when they were being manufactured? Sometimes, teachers tell their students to purchase these:

We don't need "Pink Pearls." Be bold: Go throw them out. Mistakes are the single most important facet of learning. There. I said it. It's true. We need mistakes. Hell, we need failures too. I mad tons of mistakes in my past. I'm probably making some right now. I've failed too. Big time. But, there is something to be said for the Scholarship of Screwing Up. There is something to be said about working hard to correct, re-direct, rebound, or rejuvenate. Your footprint of mistakes is important. George Couros, author of The Innovator's Mindset (Dave Burgess Consulting, LLC), has a great resource on his website that deals with the topic of digital footprints.

Think of your footprint (and your students' footprints) in this way: Feet can acquire any of the following problems or ailments (I, know, it's kind of gross):

1. Fungus issues

2. Broken toes

3. Ingrown toenails

4. Gout

5. Bunions

6. Corns

7. Calluses

Gulp . . . I know. Very gross. Yet, we need to see these ailments without erasing them from the medical chart.

These problems were treated in some way (hopefully). Our students' work, their homework, their projects, their lives all need to have a "tracking-comments-placed-in-RED-font" that is turned ON so we can see progress. It will help them to improve just about anything at their own rate. No need to erase anything. You need to see the footprint in order to metacognitively understand where you've been and where you are going. You need to see courses of change and re-direction. You need to question why the re-direction. You need to see patterns taking shape. What really is a "final copy" of a research paper, dissertation, etc., anyway? I know I'm writing this with tongue in cheek. Have you ever saved a document or edited something and only used the

File ---> "Save As" feature so you could see all of the drafts, rather than overwriting any version of the original document that you were working on?

I like the "Scholar" pencil.

I like to see things for what they are: messy.

Your students do too.

I invite you to suspend the cross-outs or erasures for one week. Try it just for one week. Use "Save As" as many times as you want and look back on all of the versions of your storied life or work-in-progress. No erasers needed. No overwrites needed.

Don't delete anything that was once messy. Maybe "track changes" can be turned on, literally and figuratively, for your students in order to turn on deeper learning as they see where their errors are and track the footprint of their daily victories.

Why not?

That's innovation, indeed.

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