The Bookbag: 2018

TRS-80 Model III
(cc) photo by Hugo Schotman
Apple IIe
(cc) photo by Mark Mathosian

I’m doing something right now that I have only gotten to do a good handful of times during my career as an educator. I am starting a brand new presentation slide deck.  What fun! Understand that when I left the classroom as a teacher, the standard for technology in the classroom was the TRS-80, and the venerable Apple IIe had only just launched. Persuasion, PowerPoint and Keynote were hardly in our imaginations.

Since I started delivering keynote addresses at conferences, I’ve had about five standard talks. They have afforded me basic structures, reasonable frameworks, about which I could tell stories that provoked new ideas about teaching and learning. Today I am starting a new one – and probably my last one.

(cc) photo by Phoenix

A compelling speaker needs a gimmick, an idea or object that is familiar, but can be turned inside out in such a way as to provoke a shakabuku, “..a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever,” if I might be so bold. 1

For this presentation, I’ve decided to use the school bookbag. One of the stabling blocks of promoting new ways to think about education is vocabulary. The biggie? “What do you call a textbook that’s not a book?

If it’s not a book, then what do you put in your school bookbag? I have some ideas…

But what do you think?

If students continue to bring bookbags to school in 2018, then what will be in them?

Please comment or Tweet (#bookbag2018).


Added Later

One thing that I do know is that a Bookbag, filled with 20 pounds of books, indicates a school based on standards — and such a school does not teach literacy nearly so much as it teaches compliance.


1Driver, M. (Performer) (1997). Grosse pointe blank [DVD]. Available from


3 thoughts on “The Bookbag: 2018”

  1. Will they even be called bookbags at that point? I can see schools wanting to get rid of bags altogether as a security issue.

  2. As one who teaches first graders (and therefore likely sees quite different things in kids’ bookbags than those in middle/high schools) I think we’ll still see kiddos stuffing toys and special items in them. My kids love to bring their lego creations, newest dollar store acquisition, Happy Meal toy from McDonalds, or recent birthday present in to share with their friends. I think that will continue.

    They also have books in there – not textbooks, of course, but books from the school library and books from our classroom reading groups. I sincerely hope that won’t change. Watching emerging readers with books is an amazing experience.

  3. Great question! In 2018, I think all but the youngest students (Jenny’s first graders for example) will be bringing “virtual bookbags” to school. If something resembling the traditional bookbag does persist for the older students… it will contain a device dedicated to the students course texts and “course materials”… their own virtual library preloaded with their course materials for the year. I think lectures will be installed as visual and audio on the device as well.

    I think the much smaller “bookbag” will continue to contain a primary social device (iPhone, version 23 perhaps?) and a “hard-to- even-visualize-or-imagine-at-this-point” device that serves the purpose of what tablets do now but so much more, like remotely feeding or walking the family dog from school. I don’t think bookbags will have pen and paper, or hard copy at all.

    I am with Jenny, I desperately hope the traditional bookbag continues on in the lives of the first graders. It is essential for their imaginations and creativity.

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