What Would I Invent?

United States Patent Cover from a real patent ...
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The Question: If you had unlimited resources, what product would you invent to help or aid your special education or learning disabled students?

I am the grandson of an inventor, so when Classroom Insiders assigned this topic I thought it would be easy to come up with something I’d want to invent.

Apparently I got passed the wrong set of genes for this.

Part of the problem is imagining having unlimited resources.

The idea of having unlimited resources is one I have a hard time wrapping my mind around.

I teach in what has been identified as the poorest Congressional district in the nation.

Despite the astounding rate of asthma among my students I still have to use chalk because I don’t have a dry-erase board.

And I have to buy the chalk.

By the end of this week, all the classrooms in my school will have SmartBoards, so I guess that will help, but my blackboard is a lot bigger and much easier to use because someone bumping into it doesn’t require time-consuming realignment with a projector.

Then there is the other side of the problem for me; the notion that there could be one product that would help or aid all my special education students.

This notion of there being one solution to every problem seems endemic in education.

Even our President has that fantasy.

I don’t.

I know that among my 100 or so students there are a wide variety of needs.

Trying to come up with a single product to help all of them is like inventing Lipitor and using it to treat cataracts and cancer as well as cholesterol.

It can’t be done.

Or can it?

After giving the problem a lot of thought…

and conducting extensive research…

after considering and rejecting many alternatives…

and after hours of emptying my mind and meditating through the power of computer solitaire, I have finally come up with what I think is a workable idea.

Were that Bill and Melinda Gates would take all the money they give Edutopia and turn it over to me.

Were that I would have access to the best engineers, the best materials chemists, the best labs and the most advanced manufacturing facilities the world has to offer.

Would that all the conditions be perfect, the stars in optimum alignment, I now know what I would invent and manufacture.

That silver bullet everyone dreams of…

a magic wand.

Magic wands
Image by Tyla’75 via Flickr

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This blog is the second in a series of three I’m writing as part of the Classroom Insiders panel at We Are Teachers. Please visit to meet the two other special  education bloggers  on the panel and read their posts on this same topic. The final posts in this series will appear May 6th.

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5 Responses to What Would I Invent?

  1. What if your magic wand gave every teacher the time to do their jobs? Whatever tech is at hand, whatever level of training they hand, whatever the kid brings to the table.

    Just the time to help the kid solve whatever problem they had to solve whenever they had they had to solve it.

  2. Olaf says:

    As always, a thought-provoking post. And although I can’t put myself in the position of a special-ed teacher, maybe I can offer something on the “inventive genes” aspect.

    Having unlimited resources isn’t the difficult bit. I can imagine it (when I’m deep in fantasy mode). The problem I think you’re having is with the word “help”. Teachers often look for the magic bullet, and believe me I’m no exception, but that’s where we start to go wrong. It’s not about a solution, it’s about making something better. At first your kids or you will knock into the SmartBoard and it will need recalibration, but they will learn to be more careful and then you will start to draw your advantage from it.

    When I read your first paragraph, my brain screamed “note-taking” at me. I would invent the perfect automatic note-taker for the students, that created notes from our lessons in the quantity and form that each student needs to get the most out of the lesson.

    This isn’t the magic bullet – it doesn’t solve all the problems, but it would help and that’s all I want. Every innovation should help and improve the learning experience, and every lesson should leave the student more knowledgeable than they were at the start.

    Leave the magic bullets to the Presidents (excluding Kennedy!) and the inventiveness of the teachers can blossom and grow.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us.

  3. Olaf,
    I think you’re really on to something with;

    “automatic note-taker for the students, that created notes from our lessons in the quantity and form that each student needs to get the most out of the lesson.”

    I’ve found that for myself, practicing on twitter is just that experience. The discipline of the 140 chrs has forced me to try to use just the right word that points to the most with the least number of characters.

    I’ve come to believe that if teachers practiced tweeting their lessons, then printing out the twitterstream on paper for review in class, it might get pretty close to the “automatic note taker” you describe.

    • Deven Black says:

      Olaf & Michael, your wish is my command, sort of.

      First up I propose the Pulse Smart Pen which already greatly enhances the ability of special education students to access instruction and class discussions.

      There has also been discussion in academic circles regarding devices that allow visually impaired students to take notes in class.

      Great thinking all around!

  4. Deven,

    The two links are both new(2me) Brilliant stuff.

    Do you think I’m right that getting budget for 15 could be relatively easy? If true, it might be possible to use as a test before the semester is over, gather some info about the best way to implement to be ready to let it grow in September.

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