Thursday, September 22, 2011

Please Power Down: Unless You're in the Hallway

There have been many positive changes in my life, since I last posted.  Previously, I was at a place in my career where I was frustrated and becoming burnt out as an educator.  After the most difficult interview I have ever been though, I was offered an intervention specialist position with an amazing district.  Of course, I quickly accepted the position.  My new principal is amazing!  I can bounce ideas off her and receive candid, helpful feedback.  It was our brief conversation, today, about cell phones within schools, that has inspired me to write this post.  

Students in this day and age have been raised in a world that has always been plugged in.  They have always had technology and instant resources at their fingertips.  Well...unless they are in school.  They must then power down and unplug.  This is something that I like to refer to as welcoming the Jetson's kids into the Flintstones' school.  (Watch this TEDTalk by Jeffrey Piontek to hear more about this idea.) 

Oh, but wait, you say, "many schools are being more open minded about the use of student's personal technology devices in school!"  I have heard of many schools changing their cell phone policy by permitting students to have cell phones out in the hallway and cafeteria. (Newville, PA, Camas-Washougal, WA) offense, but you're kind of missing the point of using cell phones in school.  I'm not advocating for the use of cell phones in schools, so that students can use them to text Johnny, Evelyn, Nedra, mom or dad.  I'm advocating for the use of cell phones in schools, so that students can use them for educational purposes, within the classroom. 

"They will cheat!!" shout the masses.  Newsflash...if a student is going to cheat, they are going to do it with or without the use of technology. However, an idea I do not advocate, is using cell phones to cheat to find answers.  Students can use cell phones to save time and communicate with others over Twitter, blogs or internet searches to help them understand and analyze information provided to them within the classroom.  While we're on the topic of cheating on assignments.  It's more difficult for a student to cheat if the assignment is authentic and is based around critical thinking skills (think opposite of the state standardized tests the students are required to take).   If students have to use critical thinking skills, they will not be able to text Dorothy for the answer.  They also will also not be able to do a Google search for the answer.  They will have to apply the knowledge they were taught, within class, and gathered while using their own personal technology devices. 

Basically, what I am saying is that if schools are going to make an acceptable use policy for cell phones.  They should start by having students use the phones in the classroom.  As that policy expands and students understand proper use of technology in a school environment, then it could be considered that cell phones be used in hallways and the cafeteria.  Administrators and teachers should be embracing technology, specially cell phones, first as a personal learning device and not primarily as a personal communication device. 

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