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Roseville dad creates website to aid teachers

On 19Pencils, educators maintain unique class pages
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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For more information on 19 Pencils, visit www.19Pencils.com.
 

For several years, Roseville parent Jason Fabbri has been actively involved with his three young children’s education, volunteering weekly in their classrooms.

But he got to thinking about how he could contribute even more.

“I’m a software engineer, so I’m not going to do a bake sale,” said Fabbri, who worked for Adobe for 16 years. “So how can I best offer my services?”

While observing students in the Catheryn Gates Elementary School computer lab, he noticed that many kids didn’t know the basics of operating a computer. Teachers used valuable and limited time to provide instructions before the real work could begin.

Fabbri devised a solution: He’d create a free website for teachers where they could create and manage a unique class page, add web links to share with students and save their favorite web resources for future lessons. Students and parents could directly access their teacher’s page.

“I quickly realized that if this can help one teacher, it can help two,” he said.

He launched the website “19Pencils” in spring 2011. He currently has about 5,000 users around the world, with about half outside the United States.

The name 19Pencils came when he asked local teacher Jake Swisley his ideal class size. The educator said 19 or 20. Fabbri went with 19 and uses pencils as an analogy for students.

Here’s how it works: A teacher creates an online account and then adds or removes resources onto the class page. The site displays a prominent thumbnail for each resource. Each webpage has a unique search engine, so students look only through their own teacher’s selected resources. This format introduces kids to online researching, while offering some assurance to parents that their children are accessing appropriate websites.

Teachers with their own blog can add that link to the system, pushing the link back into the library of resources for other educators to access.

“So it’s this vicious cycle of teachers helping teachers,” Fabbri said.

Some teachers fully embrace technology, while others can hardly send an email, and this is a way to make technology easier for all teachers, he said.

Catheryn Gates Principal Mary Patrick said 19Pencils is a “wonderful tool” to help teachers further incorporate technology into the classroom in a streamlined, kid-friendly way. She said the site will come in handy as public school districts in California incorporate a new education model called Common Core Standards, which focuses on developing students’ critical thinking skills in a global environment.

“With the Common Core Standards, it is crucial for students to have access to and be adept in navigating web-based resources and 19Pencils will make this transition easier for students and teachers,” Patrick said.

As for Fabbri, he’s still figuring out how to make money on this venture, which remains a labor of love.