The headline in the local weekly paper this week reads “High Schools Striving to Control Cell Phones.” It’s accompanied by a picture of one of the disciplinarian at an area school sitting behind a mound of confiscated phones on his desk. The article is sprinkled with quotes about how parents are too soft, how punishments need to be raised, and that rumors about students using the phones to cheat at school were “false information.”
Last week we also had the first MySpace “incident” at our school. Two of our students started harassing each other on their sites and both ended up in the assistant superintendent’s office for some mediation and some editing. Turns out, unbeknownst to me, btw, that the plug’s been pulled on MySpace here. (Edublogs, Blogger, Flickr and the like are still there.) I’m feeling somewhat red-faced, somewhat amazed, and somewhat ambivalent.
So the pitched battle hits home, and I’m sure I’ll be writing more about the ripples. I’m in no way condoning the harassment or the cheating, but I still think trying to take away from kids the technologies they communicate and learn with is the wrong approach. We can clamp down and ultimately fail as the kids and the technology overwhelm us, or try to educate and model and repurpose our curricula to take advantage of what these technologies offer.
John Brandt says
I’ve blogged a couple of times on this issue on our Maine ASCD blog. The lastest entry, “The Blog Police” makes reference to an article in the Christian Science Monitor on this issues nationally. I’ve watched a number of Tech Coord folks run quickly to shutting the gates. But kids, being kids, I can easily predict that this will make them all the more engaged in the fight. Nothing like telling a teenager that something is not good for them to increase their desire for it. The CSM article provides a good middle of the road approach and agrees with me that we should be taking advantage of these teachable moments.
Catherine Parsons says
This issue boggles my mind to say the least. I agree with the “take it away and they will want it more” theory. When those little virtual pets that came in the form of eggs became popular in the US, at the time I was a 4th grade teacher. Students would hide the keychain size units in their pockets, jackets, backpacks, and the back of their desk. Their chirping and pinging and whatever the else they did (some of them knew that others were in the room and they would “talk” to each other) – well lets just say “nuts” under-describes where they drove me. For over a week I confiscated them, to t he cries of, “if he isn’t fed he will die!” Then it hit me. We did a writing/thinking group. Those who had them (and yes, this project produced MORE of these, not less) were required to participate in a parenting support group, to write about care of their pets and to create care plans (including identifying baby sitters and other daycare arrangements). They explored how caring for the “pet” had an impact on their life, and on the settings and people around them. They identified how the pets were upsetting the learning environment on their own. They came up with a visitation plan – every other Friday – and the action that should be taken if someone did not follow the plan (the pet would be taken away and a phone call would be made to it’s “grandparent” so that it could be picked up in a timely manner). By deciding not to fight against it, I was able to get the students writing, talking, thinking, problem solving.
Cell phones? In 2006 these phones have become the norm, and a family necessity in some cases. Sports, after-school activities, jobs, two income households, single parent home, etc etc etc have necessitated the need for connections and communications between parents and students. My friends 7 year old carries a cell phone (single mom), and it has been a life saver more than once on an emergency dismissal, change in plans, etc.
My space? Is it not amazing that students are WRITING and COMMUNICATING? Do we not see that students have a place to express themselves, to share their thoughts and ideas?
Now – in both of these cases, why are we not looking at educating students? My Professional Development on-line community just had a two day discussion on how to block proxy sites in order to control access to myspace, etc. My contribution to the conversation was:
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” feel how frustrated you all must be trying to keep on top of these things. Although I know there are thousands of arguments why what I am about to suggest can’t exist in isolation (without the filter), as we are in a desperate search to try to block “bad” things, there needs to be education and accountability.
1) A strong, ENFORCED AUP: Students who are found using the technology in schools in manners that do not align with the AUP most usually suffer no or little consequences. If a child came to the library each week and destroyed books, we would find a way of keeping that child out of the library until they understand it is not acceptable behavior. If they lost their right to use the technology, then perhaps they would pay attention to where they are surfing.
2) An incorporated and constantly reinforced message regarding personal safety, release of personal information, cyber bullying, cyber stalking, etc etc. Students feel “safe” because they are in their own space when they are sharing private information. They do not see a global picture of where their information reaches to, who is reading it, and what impact that can have on them now AND later in life. It will be interesting to watch 30 years from now when some of these kids start to run for public offices and someone digs up their myspace account from when they were 15.
Here are some links/resources for you to consider and perhaps use:
http://www.missingkids.com/ and http://www.icmec.org/
And if they could learn from current events:
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I would today add to that:
Why are we not engaging the kids in these conversations? Not including education regarding appropriate use into the curriculum Why do we seek to CONTROL rather than evolve? We teach (and test) the format of a friendly letter, but students send e-mail and chat. We teach them how to write checks in business math and they use debit cards. I observed a 1st grade class recently where the imaginative play center was set up as a bank (study of communities) and heard a kid ask the “teller” where the ATM was…
Cell phones? Yes, my daughter will start carrying a “fly phone” (target) in the next 5 or 6 months (a whole different story). She has her own password protected blog and podcast in my iWeb account. She is 6. I wonder what her teachers will be trying to take away from her when she is 16.
Douglas Johnson says
We “pulled the plug” last week on MySpace in Mankato Schools too. Sort of chain of events, as I saw it, starting with a national TV program on MySpace and online predators, then parents actually checking and finding their kids using MySpace, and then calling the school to express concern. A bit of a knee-jerk reaction (IMHO) with a directive to block. Can’t say that I am crying that kids don’t have access from school, but I DON’T like that our consideration policy was circumvented. (It was interesting that the local paper which is normally very pro-school, gave us a “thumbs-down” for this action.) The real world can be a real PIA sometimes.
Parents have and will pressure school boards to allow cell phones for security reasons. The best we will be able to do is require that they be turned off during classes. Which to me seems about as much regulation as is necessary.
All the best,
arvind s grover says
Another disappointing development in the whole MySpace saga. Schools around the country are following en masse, banning MySpace and others. MySpace gets all the attention, but most of the educational technologists see it as a passing fad. Yesterday was Friendster, today MySpace and Facebook, tomorrow <fill in the blank>. Most importantly is the type of tool, social networking site. Millions around the world are signing up for these sites. They have mass appeal, and we cannot and should not combat that.
Instead, let’s get on those sites, start inter-school groups for community service, mathletes, lacross players, Anglophiles and all other things. Let students use the tools they value to explore their own educational interests.
More of my thoughts here:
In Your Facebook.com: http://www.21apples.org/articles/2006/01/14/in-your-facebook-com
The MySpace Generation: http://www.21apples.org/articles/2005/12/04/the-myspace-generation
Abstinence Only Web-ducation: http://www.21apples.org/articles/2005/12/09/abstinence-only-web-ducation
The Arms Race: http://www.21apples.org/articles/2005/11/30/the-arms-race