A Commitment to Change

Hansel and Gretel

“After six long years, why do you remain so committed to The Purple Pen?”

A Commitment to Change

Prior to the last six Purple Pen years, I taught — and learned — in four very-different-from-one-another Chicago high schools. English was my subject and passion.

I witnessed so many teachers positively impacting the lives of younger people. I want to believe that I did, too. I do know that I loved nearly every day.

I loved the learning process. The energy of younger people. I loved watching the smile of a student who achieved that which previously had seemed impossible. I loved the spontaneous humor and laughter. Dialogue. Curiosity. Focus. Insight. Problem-solving. Project-building. Reading closely, reading well. Writing critically and creatively. Performing . . . uniquely. Students learning from each other. I even appreciated adolescent pushback: to me, such pushback was an occupational hazard — and usually an inverted indicator of something much more important: engagement.

And, by 2014, I had become increasingly concerned that, to be successful, teachers needed more effective tools, especially in our digital age.

One particular missing tool concerned me the most. This tool would necessarily begin the entire learning process: a tool for teachers to design Learning Maps of any time length (e.g., syllabus, project plan, unit plan, lesson plan). If done well, this tool would help teachers more easily take control over that big elusive challenge: engagement.

If formal education consists of three stages

  1. Designing learning,
  2. Teaching and Learning, and
  3. Evaluating learning,

then teachers’ ability to easily Design learning maps would mean they and their students could more fully own and engage Teach/Learn and Evaluate. Designing their own digital learning maps would mean that teachers would not have to receive from other sources one-size fits-all, pre-packaged learning maps that often limit engagement.

So, in 2014, The Purple Pen began, supported and advised throughout by extraordinarily smart and generous people.

Has it been difficult? Oh my, book-worthy yes. Worth it? (Almost) Never a doubt. Funded? We’re working on that.

Once funded, The (now international award-winning) Purple Pen will be the no-longer-missing tool to design Learning Maps.

Check out the video and let us know what you think.

Linkedin version of this post, here.

2 thoughts on “A Commitment to Change

  1. Barry – so great to see that the Purple Pen continues! The education world needs it now more than ever. Hope all your efforts pay off.

  2. Hi Barry! So great to see this work evolving! And what an honor to post a comment adjacent to the great John Horan. I’m a principal now at a charter school in Modesto, CA. I’d love to have some of my teacher colleagues pilot The Purple Pen. I’ll sign myself up on the interest form to get the ball rolling. Hope we can catch up soon!

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