I don’t need Google Underpants

Usually by the time I get on the computer at night, any news of the day has already been spread through twitter.  But the page I just read said it was posted 6 minutes ago…so maybe I can be the first to tell you about Google’s newest product.  Google Underpants.  Ok, so maybe they are not available yet, supposedly they will be beta testing by the end of 2014.  As with any new google product, there will be a limited number available to some special people, and then eventually it will roll out to the rest of us.  And of course as with any google product, teachers will be lined up to try it because it will revolutionize the way we teach.  Before any teacher places their hands on them there are bound to be blog posts with titles like “5 Ways Google Underpants Will Change Teaching,” or “Ten Ways to Use Google Underpants In Your Classroom.”  They do sound pretty cool.  They have some kind of ultraviolet composting technology with an evaporator.  It has two settings for heavy and light, and eventually the Underpants will be able to be shared across users so schools won’t have to be 1:1 underpants.  The micro usb port will allow for some new apps to be installed, has room for extra memory, but will have difficulty accepting larger hard drives. You cannot use flash memory which stinks.  Beyond being able to save money on field trips because you can get buses without bathrooms for longer trips cheaper than coach buses, and there no longer being a need for lav breaks, I am not sure what else the cutting edge education bloggers will be able to write about.  But you can be sure…they will revolutionize education.  The first model will be able to only handle web 1.0 applications, but you will be able to use the second model to do web 1.0 or 2.0 applications. You will be amazed at the price!

The old me of 8-10 years ago would have jumped right into Google Underpants.  Back then I tried EVERYTHING.  If it was a new app, website, 2.0 tool that could even remotely be used with kids, I tried it….and tried it first.  My kids made voicethreads when there was only one single page of voicethreads on the site.  We used Prezi when if we had a question it was the guy who created it answering our questions, We had the most used wiki in the world, were probably the first content class to have each kid have an individual blog and use it for an entire year, and we were the first class to use Bing to do a research project 🙂  There were also all of the tools and sites we used that simply don’t exist anymore.  My point is, I was a technology sucker.  I was presenting at conferences on all the new tools, how to incorporate technology into classes, and I am sure if you dig back into this blog there are plenty of posts about using more technology in class, and making people feel like losers if they were not. I was in a phase in which I believed technology would revolutionize education.

But then I flipped.  My heavy use of technology and belief that it would revolutionize my classroom was a phase.  It was a phase just like every other phase that I had in my career.  Approximately every five years I get hooked into something else that is going to revolutionize my class. Right now as I look out across the internet and attend conferences, i see teachers at so many phases…at least I hope they are phases.  The biggest mistake teachers can make is to find something new and think that it is the answer.  Everything you do, should be part of a phase.  Flipping the class is a phase.  I am a huge proponent of the flipped classroom, not for what it is, but for where I think it will bring classrooms as long as it is seen a one step in a phase, because it is not the answer.

During my flips one thing I realized is that as I learned about each new “thing,” I found myself increasingly being bombarded with things that separated me from how kids naturally learn.  I have been amazed at how “teaching” has become the focus instead of “learning.”  The farther we can be separated from how kids learn naturally, and the more we can made to believe that we as teachers are necessary, the worse things will become. You are not necessary. Kids can and will learn without you, they will learn in spite of you, and they will learn to spite you. Teachers have been slowly convinced that “learning” is very complicated.  And if learning is complicated, then it is very easy to convince teachers that they need lots of tools to for these very complicated learning machines.  We need apps, and chromebooks, and new websites, and common core, and new evaluations and on and on.  One of my key thoughts that brought me from my last phase, to where I am now, is that learning becomes complicated when you try to make kids learn something that they feel is unnecessary.  When kids do not see the need for something, then teachers have to resort to teaching it.  If they see the need for it, they will learn it without you, or inspite of you.

Yesterday I placed the final touches on my class “commercial.”  It is a video I will use to intro my class at a social studies class meeting for parents, and to the kids during the first week of school.  Normally it is short, but I went crazy and mashed and changed past videos, and added a new section with projects from this year.  Making a video each year always has me reflect on my current “phase.”  One thing I realized is that practically each thing the kids did I could have done 20 years ago, now we just have better tools to share what we do.  Sure some projects were fancier that they would have been in the past, but no app, tech tool, or website made any of the activities more meaningful, the kids were not more creative, there was not more innovation.  The tech just made it easier to share.

Right now a lot of schools are in a tech fueled haze.  But to what end…  I just recently tried to watch a google hangout in which top teachers from across the country were sharing how Chromebooks changed the way they taught.  They were in a 1:1 environment and they shared how they can now collect papers on line, leave comments on students docs, how kids could work on the same doc from home, and a bunch of apps that made running their class easier.  I hope they are just in a phase, and that they don’t see what they are doing as the answer.

I know whenever I can claim to have the answer to how to improve classrooms, I am dead in the middle of a phase, and whenever I cannot identify an answer, I know that I am in transition.

I have no answers right now.  I am actually excited about that.  Whenever I don’t have the answers to what should be happening, I always have my best years.  Somehow fewer expectations always translates into more learning, more creativity, and more innovation. Go figure…

I don’t know what phase will be next for me, but I do know that more teaching will not be the answer, I know that more technology will not be the answer, and I definitely will not need Google Underpants.

Here is the commercial I made for class that sparked this post…enjoy 🙂

Edit 8/14/13  Someone just tweeted out calling making videos like this a fad.  Hmmm….the history behind the video is here.


  1. Paul,
    Love it. Yesterday I did a keynote at a tech conference. This was the disclaimer at the start of the presentation, called I think, therefore I teach.
    This presentation is not about a specific tool, or even a handful of tools. We have chosen the tools we use based on the philosophical principal that students that DO the most, LEARN the most. What you will not see in this presentation is the months of culture building that goes into our world history class. Our students are the same as students all around this country, with one exception. Our students are making the transition away from grades and points. They are beginning to see that their learning legacies can influence how other kids around the world learn. They have developed a sense of themselves in the world. It’s not the tools, its ownership.

    Thanks for a great message. I will be sharing this post. Thanks Paul, Garth

    1. The months of building culture is so key…without that nothing we do would be possible. That is a difficult thing to write about and talk about. It is also something that teachers are being subliminally and forcefully being told is not important and not important to learning. I know a school that has let it be known that “morning meetings” will not be tolerated. I know this year I had an extremely difficult time getting the kids to do great things because a couple people in the “community” did not want me wasting time on the things I would usually do to build that culture….that special spirit that usually exists.

      Love this : “They are beginning to see that their learning legacies can influence how other kids around the world learn.” I am going to speak to the Bd of Ed in Sept and have been looking for an opening line…I will shamelessly alter yours and use it 🙂

  2. Thanks, Paul. I always love these beginning of the year videos. Hopefully I’ll have some material of my own to make one after this year!

  3. Your video is really inspiring. You should find a way to connect with Don Wettrick. You and he have a lot in common.

  4. I’ve been doing some thinking around these same kinds of issues. I like your thoughts about technology that is used to emphasize and change “teaching” vs. that which is used for “learning.”

    I used to be the same as you, jumping on every thing that went by. These days I am much more reflective and aware about what I’m choosing to use in my classroom.

  5. Just had this shared with me, and it resonated deeply. A profound, thoughtful reminder as we kick off the school year. So much about technological integration is not about the technology, but about the people. Thank you.

  6. I came back to this post today after following the link in your latest post when the words of your student moved me to tears. Yesterday for some reason I did not watch the commercial, but today I did. I saw engaged learners, and what stood out to me most I think we’re the faces of your powerful girls. As mother to one daughter who has moved through the age of the students you teach, and to another who quickly approaches it, I appreciate that very much. I wish you and your students an outstanding year. They are powerful and fierce and they will find those breadcrumbs!

    1. Thanks Karen…funny you mention the images of the girls…My wife pointed out that I favored the girls when doing the video (dad of two daughters). I am literally editing the end of the video right now to include a few more of my guys 🙂
      Thanks for the kind words,

  7. This is the most inspiring “back to school” message I’ve found. Thanks for sharing and giving me a lot to think about.

Leave a Reply to Mitch Weisburgh Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>