Cellphones in the classroom

This morning, like all others, I awoke to the local radio station. At 5:45 am I simply cannot stomach the beep, beep, beep of an alarm clock. And the great part is that my local radio station ROCKS. They have an excellent morning show with good debates. I figure that any radio show that can make me frantically reach for my iPhone to send off passionate emails before 6:00 am are pretty impressive. This morning like many other media outlets (The Star article) the quick conversation was about cellphones in the classroom. Dalton McGuinty made some comments over the past few days about boards being able to allow cellphones in the classroom when appropriate. The quick 6:00 am banter on The Dock FM included the radio hosts commenting on how distracted their teens (and others) are texting and emailing in the classroom. This is what got me hopping.

I’ve harassed the poor morning show host Meg before (she is wonderful and comes into the local high school for literacy conferences on a regular basis) and so sent her off an email. This is what it said:

“If we DON’T use mobile devices in the classroom, who exactly is modeling appropriate use? How do they learn how to use them properly?

Why do we all have this vision of kids sitting in rows in order to learn? What kind of job is like that? By NOT having mobile devices in class we are saying that we don’t want kids collaborating, communicating and searching for information. COME ON!!! This is the 21st century!!! These are skills that are needed for success. Mobile devices are Powerful learning devices. So, never thought I’d say this – props to @Dalton_McGuinty ( his twitter handle). He gets that we need to change our view of education in order to prepare these poor kids for THEIR future, not our past.”

I received this response “Good points Jacyln. Hope you heard our discussion on this…..this email featured heavily:)”

I unfortunately missed this later discussion and am highly curious as to whether I was debated or agreed with. Either way I’m happy. If I was agreed with, than maybe more people (listeners) were swayed towards my opinion. If I was debated, then it would have been a great learning experience (if only I had heard it and responded).

This little early morning interaction reminds me how education has to change to reflect changes in society. Twenty years ago a “nobody” like myself would never have their opinion heard, considered and debated on a radio station like The Dock FM. Technology has facilitated communication and collaboration to a degree that it permeates almost every career. How on earth do we expect our students to learn how to use this technology to help them be heard and to share ideas if we use blanket policies to ban them from schools? Will they be distracting? YES! Absolutely! When students hand wrote and passed notes did we ban the pen and paper? No, because they were seen as integral to the learning process. Technology is integral to the learning process when used properly. Technology in itself is useless. You could have a classroom with laptops on every desk and an interactive whiteboard at the front, that functions exactly like a classroom from the 1950’s. Students are seated in rows typing out notes. The teaching needs to change along with technology use.

We need to ask our selves “is this helping students succeed in today’s world?”. What skills do they need to succeed? My guess is collaboration, communication and innovation. Recalling facts is not important if you can “google it”. Using that information to form ideas, arguments and communicate those thoughts are much more important. Technology can facilitate that. We can’t be sure what today’s students will be faced with in 50 years. How can I know what to teach them that will be relevant? Things change so fast. Maybe if we teach them how to learn for themselves, communicate and problem solve, they’ll be able to figure it out for themselves?

So, thanks to The Dock FM for the thought-provoking morning. I’ve also learned an important lesson – if I decide to harass you, I’d darn well better listen to the rest of the morning show! 🙂

2 Replies to “Cellphones in the classroom”

  1. Wow I can't believe someone actually thinks like this…I suppose this person has never taught a class of 30 kids, teenagers. I suppose this person believes that cooperation, collaboration, communication, listening to multiple opinions, sharing ideas, learning material, information, learning and showing respect for others, discovering new subject areas as well as learning responsibility, discovering self by being challenged and stimulated by teachers and peers…. well, … I suppose all of this can be learned in class by students themselves using electronics while the antiquated teacher stands poised with books, articles, material, experience, etc. … Let's hope when this person needs a good doctor, laywer, mechanic, or whatever, let's just hope for Jac that his/her need is not less important or interesting to the professional as the incredibly urgent e-mail, text, twitter etc. sent. Ooops maybe it would be a surgeon, …. hmmmm. 🙂

  2. Anonymous,

    I'm not saying that mobile devices need to be used without any training nor consideration. Nor do they need to be used at all times nor in all classes. I just do not think that a blanket policy banning mobile devices is the way to go.

    I believe that teachers need all sorts of PD opportunities – just not in the traditional way it's been done in the past. Teachers need choice and the opportunity to direct their own learning. They also need the technology in their own hands as you mentioned.

    Take a look at the CTV news segment here: http://aforgrave.ca/detritus/?p=47 This classroom teacher uses iPod Touches and iPads in the classroom. If there was a blanket policy banning mobile devices in the classroom province-wide, then this type of learning wouldn't occur.

    If we don't attempt to teach appropriate use for mobile devices and how to use them for learning, how will our future surgeons practice this skill? Doctors have used palm pilots for many, many years (since they were a fraction as powerful as they are today) to access patient records and medical resources. I've personally never had an issue with my doctor ignoring me to answer his email. There is a time and a place – and this is the message our students need to hear and practice. Will they push the envelope? Sure they will. They are teenagers. They push the envelope on everything. Could it be a classroom management nightmare? Absolutely! Do teachers need support and does this have to be implemented in a thoughtful, careful, slow way with support for all players (teachers, admin, students, parents)? YES!

    Teaching is likely the most difficult job I know of. My respect for classroom teachers is immense. Teachers need to be superheros with very limited preparation time and income for what is asked. I don't think this gives us permission to completely ignore the realities of life and the fact that these kids need to learn how to learn in the 21st century. Its a nightmare all the constant changes in education, but that will never change. If anything, society is only changing faster and faster and education has no choice but to reflect those changes.

    I have taught a class of 30 kids. Recently in fact. I made lots of mistakes. Lots. I still do. But, I refuse to let those mistakes stop me from being innovative and trying to find the perfect balance between integrating technology WITH PURPOSE and reverting back to my comfort zone of standing at the front of the room and delivering info while students sit, receive and regurgitate.

    I just can't get on board with the idea that we should continue to teach like we did in 1950 when kids were being prepared for factory/industrial work. Kids now need a different skill set to succeed and banning mobile devices from every school in the province won't get us any closer to helping these students learn these skills.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post! I love using a blog as a platform for great debates. Wish I had a name for you other than anonymous! 🙂

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