Yesterday, I had the real pleasure of spending some time in a 9th English classroom again, this time with a group of students from an under achieving, 3,000 pupil high school in midtown Manhattan. Ostensibly, I was there as a tag team with Alan November talking to city technology liasons and support teachers about the changes and challenges we’re facing, so while Alan spoke, I visited kids and vice versa. (I UStreamed the last 20 minutes or so of a Q & A that we did at the end of the day. Not great in terms of audio an video, but some good Alan rants.)
Anyway, the kids were the highlight. We talked about the technologies they used, how they used it, and what they might use it for, and the conversation was fairly predictable. Many of them had a decent Internet connection at home, but many had none. Despite that, they guessed almost 90% of the school had MySpace pages, that they went there every day, that they used it to communicate and get information about homework, and that, of course, it was blocked in school. (MySpace is blocked in NYC schools to everyone, even administrators. Ironically, up until a phone call was made on my behalf yesterday, this blog was also being blocked as a “social networking” site. Oy.) Surprisingly, (or maybe not so surprisingly) they seemed amazed at the idea that their sites would be looked at by employers or by colleges, and they seemed never to have thought about the idea that they would be Googled by their future mates. (And that they would be doing some Googling as well.) Now that was a moment.
Almost all of them had cell phones as well, phones which are banned in school. (The policy is that if you are caught with a cell phone in school, it’s taken away and it can only be returned to a parent who comes to pick it up on a Friday.) I hooked most of them when I took out my phone and had them ask me a question that they thought I wouldn’t know, which after a few more colorful attempts ended up being “What’s the population of Spain?” They watched as I sent a text message “Spain population” to 46645 (GOOGL) and get the answer back about 10 seconds later. Amazement ensued.
I told them I was a cell phone is schools advocate, and we talked about what they might say in making a case for a policy change. (The teacher was very ok with this, btw.) Since many of these kids commuted from over 30 minutes away by subway each day, almost to a person they said they needed their phones in case of an emergency. But when I nudged them past the safety issue, they talked about using the phone to make movies, to do interviews, even to write, (which surprised me until I learned Sidekicks were all the rage.) And, now, they said, for research. We talked about the “appropriate behavior” piece of this, that, just like with MySpace, there is an appropriateness issue here, that they would have some real responsibility on their shoulders should the phones ever be allowed. By and large, I was impressed by the way they made the case.
But here was the moment that floored me. Obviously, these kids don’t leave their cell phones at home. They are too important as a communications tool for safety’s sake and for social connections. Yet they can’t get these phones through the airport like scanners at the front of the building. So what do they do? Seems a little cottage industry as sprung up at the delis and bodegas around the school so that kids can check their phones in for the day at $3 a pop. They get a ticket, just like a coat check, on their way into school, and they pick it up on the way out.
So, the cell phone ban not only denies students the opportunity to use the device in all sorts of ways that are relevant to learning, it also costs them real money. Start doing some math, and it’s not hard to get to the answer that this high school’s kids are out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just to check their phones. Hundreds of thousands of dollars.
To me, this is the vision thing again. In a school where there are about 300 computers for 3,000 students, doesn’t it make more sense to get creative about not only how we might use phones in the classroom but teach phones and phone use in the curriculum? I mean, are the economies worth working toward a solution of the “disruption” problem? And I’m sorry, but I just believe that if we show kids from an early age the appropriate and effective use of the technology, if we make it a valuable and necessary part of the way they do their school business, the widespread disruptions will abate.
End of rant. (Doing a lot of that lately.)
I do want to end this on a positive note. I started a UStream show with them, and thanks to Twitter, within a few minutes had about 20 folks from around the world (Canada, Romania, across America). They were blown away. I asked them what they thought they could do with UStream for themselves, and immediately they were talking about cooking shows, news broadcasts, and much more. They. Were. Engaged.
(Photo “Cell Phone Camera” byÂ L-ines.)
Lisa Parisi says
How very enterprising of the bodega owners. Do you think you changed any administrator’s minds about use of cell phones in school? Let’s hope so.
Colleen Harris says
I have to respectfully disagree on this front. Having been through the public school system in New York, there are very few ways cell phones can be incorporated into classwork without complete disruption. Yes, the students argued and made a decent case for what they could use phones for and what their responsibilities would be, but with 40 students in a classroom, even a few who shirk those responsibilities can run the learning environment.
Making it a valuable and necessary part of the way students do business in the classroom also leaves out the number of kids who do *not* have cell phones.
Another issue is that college students are struggling to sit tight and pay attention in the classroom for an hour long class. K-12 is the training ground for getting kids to *pay attention* and students need to know that indeed they will have to do without their gadgetry when they get older as well – in college classrooms, at many workplaces, and at various points in their lives they are going to have to get creative about how to do their work without their ever-present iPhones and sidekicks. No need to feed the addiction and dependence on these devices from such an early age.
And I would arguing that texting Google for an answer is hardly ‘research,’ nor should you be telling students that it is. We have a hard enough time un-training their bad habits once they reach college as it is.
I am all for teaching kids the responsible use of technology. But high school classrooms where they are supposed to be learning how to read and engage in critical thinking, and where each teacher has barely 40 minutes to make that happen. I would argue it’s not the place for cell phone use.
As someone on the inside, I think you make a lot of valid points about logisitics and practicalities of cell phones.
In his post, Will talks about the theoretical. I agree with the theory. Get kids engaged by having them learn with a tool they already use. The cell phone is a portable tool that could have many uses. I’m thinking about how on a field trip, students can use the camera function to take pictures of things they are seeing, texts to write visceral reactions, and email functions to sen them to school accounts. Again, in theory, fantastic.
You brought up several points that would need to be addressed in terms of management. Here are a few more:
-Does the student or the school pay for the added services (like texting, email, browsers, picture messaging?)
-If a student doesn’t have a phone with those features (or no phone at all) does the school provide one?
On the other side of things, I do believe the key is education and modeling for kids. The need to see (or at a minimum, discuss) ethical and practical uses of new tools and new media. Teachers should be discussing future ramifications of taking cell phone pictures and myspace pages. (Look no further than today’s news that to see one person’s my space page and her association with ex-Governor Spitzer aired out for the world)
To sum it up: Will post gets me thinking, which is the point of his posts in the first place. (and he is very good at that. He left working as a tech director in a high school to become a “professional thinker”. 🙂 The harder step is moving from idea consideration to practical implementation.
I’m waiting for the blog post on that.
Andy Preston says
Here is a blog post on moving from idea consideration to practical implementation.
Firstly there are gadgets which do the media capture bit that offer far better quality of audio video capture. They don’t have the stigmas attached to them that mobiles phones have, they are a least a step forward to providing portable technologies that allow children to capture their creativity.
Here is a blog about such a gadget http://www.merlinjohnonline.net/
You can’t ask educators to take a giant leap all in one go but you can agree with early adopters some steps based on the benefits of creative practive, safe use of digital media. Here for some info about this
Why is learning equated with “sitting tight and paying attention”? It’s little wonder our students lose the ability to become self-directed learners when the perception is still out there that they are empty vessels, sitting quietly, ready to take in information.
Fortunately, we have very forward thinking individuals working in our school division. When a teacher and administrator decided that they might at least try to see what the learning opportunities with cel phones could be, they were supported, at least from a central office stand. Here’s the link describing the project.
Whether we like it or not, our students are immersed in these “gadgets”. Why not embrace and guide their use in an educational setting rather than banning them entirely??
S. Lorenzen says
You seem to think that the system is working because that’s the way it has always worked. Today’s learner is different that that of the 20th century, 19th century and finally 18th century (where this system of education was started to produce factory workers in the industrial age).
I teach technology in a high school environment. I advocate that cell phones could be a tool for education just as easily as they can be as a tool for mischief and distraction. The funny part is unless you can watch 24-32 individuals and what their hands are doing throughout a 50 minute period than you have yet to realize the kids are using their phones anyhow. Most of them can “touch-text” one-handed and without looking at the phone except to read responses.
Students are struggling to “sit tight and pay attention” because their instructors are BORING THEM TO DEATH. If you came from a land of multimedia, interactive, engaging material (READ: the 21st century) and were occasionally trapped in an environment where there is limited to no interaction, a guy or gal talking for 40 minutes straight and a whiteboard and pen combination for “rich media content” (READ: most schools today) you too would be BORED TO DEATH.
And the biggest problem is that the vast majority of Education instruction teaches the new teachers to teach the OLD ways. We continue to force today’s learner to conform to a teaching environment that has become dated, unengaged, and spends too much time on CONTENT and STANDARDS instead of CREATIVE THOUGHT and INVENTING SOLUTIONS. If I need to know almanac information I can look it up at home, on my iPhone, or even phone a friend. The synthesis of knowledge is the ultimate goal, not the ability to recite facts.
What do you learn by sitting on your rear end and listening and taking notes? What job does that prepare you for in the real world? I suppose the author would kick out calculators, word processing, and other “devices” that are really used in the REAL world.
Besides, you make a cell phone, iPod, iPhone, or other “device” a teaching tool, most educators I have encountered can suck the fun right out of those devices to the point where students would leave them at home to avoid having to use them, (just like they do their pens, pencils, and calculators where I teach).
P.S. — I have news for you, they are all open cell phone tests, teachers just don’t know it.
Colleen Harris says
“I teach technology in a high school environment. I advocate that cell phones could be a tool for education just as easily as they can be as a tool for mischief and distraction.”
In the proper context, yes. I agree with you. I am not anti-technology, I am anti-“use it everywhere and anywhere,” which often crops up among folks who think technology is the solution for everything.
“Students are struggling to â€œsit tight and pay attentionâ€ because their instructors are BORING THEM TO DEATH. If you came from a land of multimedia, interactive, engaging material (READ: the 21st century) and were occasionally trapped in an environment where there is limited to no interaction, a guy or gal talking for 40 minutes straight and a whiteboard and pen combination for â€œrich media contentâ€ (READ: most schools today) you too would be BORED TO DEATH.”
Unfortunately, the reality is that people do indeed need to learn to “sit tight and pay attention,” much as you seem to loathe the idea. I understand that this can be boring – I do. But – not everything can be accomplished with group work. Not everything can be accomplished (nor should it) in digital and flashy fashion. An explanation of mathematical theorems is *always* going to be dry and boring (apologies to mathematicians). While you can make some of the real world applications of these things sound interesting (say, the mechanics of an oil rig), eventually you need to move to the actual theorem and away from the more “interesting” stuff that actually captures attention.
Paying attention is an underrated skill. In the real world, depending on your job, you often have to attend seminars, uninteresting meetings, and various other events where whipping out a cell phone – however unobtrusively – is considered at best rude and inappropriate. Nor am I of the “old school fuddy duddies” – I’m 28. I work in an active and lively place where we use technology often – as appropriate. However, I can also sit and read or study for a number of hours at a time – textbooks may not be as interactive as you’d like, but they are still required reading, and students who have not had their attention spans cultivated in their younger years struggle mightily with this once they get to college.
My argument is less about policing cell phones than about the fact that what usually ends up happening is that not only knowledge content is lost when you emphasize the flashy technology and the interactivity, but necessary study and reading skills – like the stamina to sit and study – are lost when all we do is train their minds that it’s okay to be attention-deficit. And horrible as it may sound, high school students need to learn certain skills before they can succeed in college, and learning to deal with the fact that not everything can be interactive group work using iPhones is one of those things.
Mike Hetherington says
“Paying attention is an underrated skill” is the best quote I’ve read in a long time. Technology is a blessing and can enhance and expand learning opportunities, but the ability to concentrate and apply critical thinking skills is a prerequisite to utilizing technology in learning academic subject matter.
Kristin Hokanson says
Will this is exactly the point I was trying to make in my own home district! Surprisingly, (or maybe not so surprisingly) they seemed amazed at the idea that their sites would be looked at by employers or by colleges, and they seemed never to have thought about the idea that they would be Googled by their future mates. Isn’t this why we should be EDUCATING them, and their parents about these networks? I will continue to rant along with you. Perhaps if the wave gets large enough…. 🙂
Stephanie Sandifer says
“…I just believe that if we show kids from an early age the appropriate and effective use of the technology, if we make it a valuable and necessary part of the way they do their school business, the widespread disruptions will abate.”
Why is that such a hard concept to grasp?
Sue Wargo says
I totally agree with Will that once you incorporate technology (even cell phones) as integral part of learning it can take the onus off of the use as a bad thing. Maybe some of the negative/discipline issues would go away over time. Small example, as a media specialist I had a tough time embracing Wikipedia. It made library time unbearable and my time was spent on wasted negative energy. Now I start lessons with it. We dissect the entries, what’s good to use, what’s not so good. Now library research becomes about what’s good information not an anti-Wikipedia lesson that has made me seem negative and irrelevent to my students. I can only hope we embrace all new forms of technology as the way of the future and worth having both in and out of school.
Lee Ann Spillane says
I agree with getting rid of the “wasted negative energy” and allowing students to use cell phones in class. I think we can teach students through modeling and direct instruction what is appropriate and I think that students would be fine with such limits and yes the discipline issue would subside. I can see how similar lessons on effectiveness/research and even writing things such as audience/purpose would follow with cells. Then the classroom is focused on learning, not policing, creating not regurgitating.
Dan Gross says
Wow. One viewpoint that states that cell phones are emerging and we don’t fully know how we might use them, but that banning them rather stifles the direction.
And another concerned that their use might be “disruptive” to the way us adults have so far liked to “do business.”
Not surprising since this is Will’s blog – but I’m on his side. I’m about to refer a teacher to this post who is having trouble not figuring out how to USE blogs in class, but how to ACCESS blogs in class so her students can blog. She asked the tech coordinator – who referred her to me…
My first solution? Well, pull out your cell phone and laptop, and get on that blog – once we have it “created” then we’ll work on getting the specific site unblocked. But its really too bad that teachers have to pay for an $80/mo service out of their own pockets, because of what has become overzealous control – “or you lose your funding.”
PS: a large urban school near me banned cell phones when the kids took pictures of abuse and bullying in school. It ended up inciting other kids to “come help.” Rather than confront the problem ~ ban the cell phones so the kids WON’T be able to call for backup. (Yeah, I know there is more to it than that, and this statement doesn’t even reflect my personal views accurately.)
Owen Mathews says
Great post, Will. Here at our generally technologically enlightened private school, we have a policy against both cell phones and digital music players, so I have a firsthand experience of the frustration you felt. It goes to show you how much effort it takes to change entrenched attitudes.
Jay Bennett says
Where to start? I have been out of the classroom for almost seven years now. During this time I have been a stay at home dad and online teacher. I have enjoyed these opportunities immensely and wonder if I would want to ever go back to the traditional classroom and teach in a traditional public school. This post reminds me of the reasons that I hesitate about going back, having to deal with blocked access, tech ignorances, etc. It also reminds me of what I miss, getting a concept across to the kids and watching as they light up with all of the possibliities.
Cell phones are a way of life. Social networking is a way of life. All of the blocking in the world won’t keep them from using it. We might as well start teaching technology abstinence, maybe we already are. I am sure it will be just as effective as the other kind of abstinence that we are also forced to teach.
$3 to check your phone? That’s ridiculous, I’m fairly certain that $3 buys a decent school lunch, so are these kids going hungry to check their phones or does the bodega throw in a bagel for every phone checked?
Will nailed this one on the head, we need to get to them early with this stuff, I’m teaching my kids, are you teaching yours?
Lisa Nielsen says
I love the idea of the experience that teacher had watching you with her students. From watching you teach them to use cell phones as powerful information tools, to fully engaging them in the possibilities of creating a show on UStream. I think it would have been extremely valuable for this teacher to watch you get kids going with a UStream project and witness that students can sit still (for hours) when they are engaged in authentic instruction using 21st Century tools.
So I suggest Will, that you add to your repertoire two things: 1) An assembly experience for students that opens the eyes of both students and teachers to what is happening. 2) An in-the-classroom experience during which you visit a few classrooms in a day and get the students, teachers, and key staff (i.e. media specialist, tech coach, librarian) started on exciting projects such as this.
This might be a natural progression for educators who have heard from you, Alan, David, etc. and are ready to see this work in action but just need a push to get started.
Will Richardson says
Kids scare me. ;0)
But I do agree with you, and was reminded once again after watching a Ustream from Ryan Bretag today with kids outside of Chicago, most students know very little about any of this. Doing some long-term projects around these tools are what we should be aiming for, and really the technologies themselves make the logistics a lot easier.
Lots to think about.
PS. I think that teacher had some ideas working even before I left.
This had me thinking of other ways students are distracted in classrooms. What about the students who use paper and pencil to write notes to other students, or doodle instead of paying attention to the teacher, or ball the paper up and use it to hit other students. Do we take away the paper and pencils? We need to show students appropriate ways to use tools in the classroom, not take away everything.
Sue Wargo says
Here here Pat! Great response
Stephanie Sandifer says
Gee — I never thought of that (wink, wink). Pencils are sharp objects too, and could be used as deadly weapons. Pat, you’ve convinced me — we need to ban paper and pencils as well. No good can come of their use in the classroom because there are just too many ways in which they can be distracting!
I fully agree that Pat’s made a very valid statement. As far as I know, UK schools don’t generally ban mobile phones, and they certainly don’t have airport scanners on the entrances. If my nephews are anything to go by, they get told off if they try to communicate in class when they aren’t meant to be; whether that’s by whispering, notes or texting.
I’d agree with an earlier comment about what you’d do about kids that don’t have phones if you’re wanting to use them for teaching, but to ban them outright from the premises strikes me as being very hard on kids who may need them on the way home, even if they’re not allowed to use them in teaching time.
Robert Rowe says
Just as we expect students’ research papers to be typed (regardless of whether they have a computer at home or not), we can work out ways to use cellphones and mp3 players for education as well.
Our rural, Central PA school district bans cellphone/iPod *use* from 7:15-2:50, but allows them on school property. That said, just this morning, one of my violinists shared a few of the compositions from “Atonement” which were on her iPod. Students have used their camera-phones to help us remember stage setups for concerts, improve instruction diagrams for lighting/sound equipment, etc.
I realize a change in policy isn’t going to happen overnight, nor would I want it to, but teaching the students responsible use of these new technologies (like the Wikipedia example), will bring less stress and more opportunities for learning both in and out of school.
I shared this blog posting with my middle school principal and whether I agree or not, I thought his response was worth adding to the conversation.
1. When an emergency happens, the last thing we need is for kids to get on cell phones and provide parents with inaccurate information that may place them, their parents, or others in danger
2. Emergency responders rely on cell phones too, and a lot of people using their cells can â€œbring downâ€ a cell tower
3. The school is able to regulate access to sites on the computers that have internet access â€“ but not personal cell phones
4. The ability for cell phones to provide access and send to others inappropriate information (ie photos) during the school day â€“ things that parents are able to regulate at home, but are unable to regulate at school, and depend on the school to do so
5. The interruptions in the classroom are not assisted by cell phones, whether or not kids would have talked anyway isnâ€™t the point. It certainly doesnâ€™t aid the problem
6. I agree banning phones entirely is a bad idea â€“ however, if I were able to have a phone stand here and charge kids money and make a profit for me, Iâ€™d probably ban them!!
Gary S. Stager, Ph.D. says
I’m surprised your principal can summon the courage to get out of bed each morning. That is one scary world he lives in.
I began writing about these issues many years ago. One article, Back to Rule: We must address behavior, not technology (published in November 2001), caused one unhinged school principal to explain that “perhaps I was unaware that cell phones could be used to detonate explosive devices.”
Please tell your boss that he can add that concern to his list. It’s on me!
Simply reading the newspaper would make any citizen aware that cellphones have saved countless lives during emergencies, including during school shootings, and helped foil child abductions. On 9/11, it was the Guiliani-provided police and fire department radios that did not function. Cell phones were much more reliable.
As for your principal’s point #5. I hope he never interrupts via the school intercom and that the school bells have been disabled.
I explored related issues of administrators behaving badly in this article, Adults Behaving Badly: Who protects a student when the administrator is a bully? (August 2005)
NOTE: If one of the links above requires a password, just click Cancel. The magazine archives are behaving badly.
Continutation of principal’s comment above:
Certainly one can make the argument that these â€œdisadvantagesâ€ donâ€™t outweigh the advantages â€“ but I would argue those people most likely arenâ€™t in charge of the safety and security of an environment of hundreds or thousands of kids, and also arenâ€™t charged with promoting a healthy learning environment.
Gary S. Stager, Ph.D. says
The $3 cell phone storage story is the result of deep psychosis on the part of people in authority. The Bloomberg/Klein junta picked an another unnecessary fight, but could do so with impunity since they disbanded any democratic input in the New York City Public Schools.
The same community that found a way to profit from the children’s misfortune, had no similar way to overturn the stupid policy.
I could imagine a scenario in which school funding is cut and the district fills the gap by charging kids to store their own cell phones at school. Are you listening Governor Schwarzenegger?
Gary S. Stager, Ph.D. says
We may disagree on what constitutes research or about the degree to which cell phones offer actual educational benefits.
However, there is a much more fundamental issue at stake here.
IT IS WRONG TO BE MEAN TO CHILDREN!
Schools need to do everything possible to reduce the level of antagonism between adults and children for the sake of the institution’s viability, for safety and for the learning environment.
Christian Long says
Will, I was sitting here in the faculty room over lunch sharing this post of yours with a colleague.
His immediate reaction (tongue in cheek, although it has merit on an economic and management level):
It’d take out the middle man, give the impression that the schools are finding a healthy middle ground on behalf of their kids who commute (and are ‘kids’ in this day and age), and perhaps some 21C options might accidentally become possible over time.
I added the following:
Not only would they win the economic game, they could also re-plug the funds back into “student life”, technology, reduced lunches, etc. Sort of an ‘environmental’ approach to an awkward situation: reclaim the opportunity costs for greater good.
And furthermore, they’d be able to inspire more volunteering and ‘experiential education/service’ opps.
Granted, this ain’t gonna happen [SIC, intentionally], but such a theoretical conversation of new solutions might inspire a re-think. And maybe a bit of empathy for the kids’ real-life paradox, too.
BTW, Will, I love the I’ll be Googled? realization the kids had. Maybe the #1 thing they could take away from your presentation was that little gem.
Great post. Thanks.
Gary S. Stager says
See my above comment..
How long will it take for your mayor or governor to slash funding to make up for the windfall profits of the cellphone tax?
Should average students be less safe based on your sliding scale for high academic performance?
Christian Long says
Gary — Appreciate your follow-up.
Obviously I’m NOT advocating for a ‘cell phone tax’ (under the heading of a cell phone ‘coat check room’) nor am I advocating for actually creating a sliding scale for ‘payment’. It is merely a thought-exercise based on the economic realities of the bodega solution and a way to think of the problem from more than one angle.
But, if my response above HAD been about pure advocacy, here is what I’d say to your questions:
1. Given what the Gov-ernator in California is in the process of doing right now re: slashing funds to core classes/programs, the time frame would be short.
2. Clearly ‘safety’ – as you used it – would have to be defined first before responses can be fully offered. Second, with the ‘community service’ premise as a way to avoid paying $$$, ‘safety’ stops being the issue, as you brought it up. Option: Heck, make a poster for the girls basketball game as the act of ‘service’. Either way, just use it as a chance to ‘add’ to the school community.
For what it’s worth, Gary. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
As for Colleen’s comment about lockers, the issue is letting the kids ‘in the door’ with the phone in the first place. If they were allowed to bring them in, a locker would be great. The admin, however, would have to be comfortable with the phones being in the school without being under the control of themselves, I’m thinking.
Trust is the key to all of this, not technology, bodega end-games, or silly (as I wrote myself) theories about cell phone ‘coat check rooms’ in the school lobby, right?
Colleen Harris says
Aren’t most high schools already equipped with lockers for most of the students? Why isn’t that an option? It utilizes already-existing resources and doesn’t disrupt anything. If the excuse is that lockers get broken into, then the school has a security issue it needs to deal with.
Pauline Simard says
We have lockers in our high school. We offer lock rental for $5 for the school year. When students return the lock at the end of the year, the $5 is refunded. They (students), not administration, are responsible for securing their content. If the opt out of renting the lock they have only themselves to blame.
Terry Elliott says
There is much anti-cellphone agitating at the higher ed level, too, among students and faculty. But I have a recurring nightmare. In that dream I am in my classroom teaching away when one student’s cellphone goes off on vibrate and she opens it up, then another, and another. I watch in horror as every cellphone in the class goes off. I start walking then running toward the door and… the nightmare ends as a reach for the door to lock it.
I tell my students to keep their cellphones on at vibrate. I show them the University-wide texting link they can get which warns of any emergency. I am waiting for the mega-lawsuit that contends that school policy actually made students less safe.
Interesting article in NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/21/nyregion/21lives.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Yay! I can now read your blog and comment on it from work! :c)
Do you think I, as a NYC public school parent, will be able to bill Joel Klein’s office for the $15 a week my child will have to spend to check his phone when he’s old enough for one?
Dan Stucke says
I’m with you all the way here Will. We have a nominal ban at our school in the UK, all electronic devices turned off and in bags at all times. This surprisingly doesn’t work! I’m currently converting some revision CDs of video clips into files that iPods and PSPs will play, I’m convinced some pupils will make more use of them this way.
Cell phones are essential in today’s times, but students who use them inappropriately make it difficult for everyone else. Videos put on YouTube to embarrass teachers or other students and communicating with friends during class are just two examples. If students use technology respectfully, they deserve the privilege of having cell phones in class.
Pauline Simard says
Finally, the real reason for the ban! Students are not responsible, even with repetitive reminders and consequences. I have been teaching high school students since 1992. I love technology and love exciting students in my classroom. I use whatever technology I can to get the message across.
Students know my class rules, which follow school policy (mostly). However, I also allow my Yearbook students to use their cellphones to follow up with their merchant for ads as needed. My staff is USUALLY quite responsible. Still, I have taken a couple cellphones away for untimely usage. Planning a ski trip during class just does not help meet our deadline.
For my desktop publishing and html classes, I’ve asked students to take digital photos with their phones as many do not have their own cameras. This would enable them to have their own photos to manipulate during class. I’ve shown them how to email pics from their phones to save on computers for class projects.
But it is really frustrating to be the teacher-warden when students misuse the privilege. It is really deflating.
Adrienne PIlon says
I have had instances of inappropriate cell phone use. So I have a class rule: when a phone goes off and we are in the middle of something, the offender has to bring in food for the rest of the class on another day. Everyone usually laughs, and we all eat donuts later that week. In general, it is amusing. I do agree with the post that started all this though: students do need instruction on the appropriate use of technology. Whether that takes the form of a short course outside the regular curriculum, or is integrated throughout–these are ideas we need to think about.
a. woody delauder says
It’s quite interesting that blogs were blocked, but Ustream was not. My district blocks Ustream under the basis that there is not enough bandwidth to take all the streaming video. The only video site that is not blocked in my district is TeacherTube. I guess there is enough bandwidth to carry those videos ;#)
Sara Paulson says
I was one of the less inspiring grown ups you talked to at Washington Irving HS and changed (just today I opened my two kid blogs to be crawled upon, hooked up with another school who needed 5th grade blogging buddies via the Elem Tech Liason discussion board, and added a 12-year-old friend, neighbbor, and voracious reader and now blogger as a contributor on one).
I raised my hand only to politely put it down again and again, but what I wanted to say is that by focusing on what you are passionate about, you add value to the world (Alan’s fifth farm job). I was always a mediator in my rancorous home of five kids and one mom. By valuing and cultivating your passion, you have something to share. Most kids I know haven’t really gotten so far as to feel like they have anything to shre, any expertise….
Happens to be that I am passionate about getting kids to read and read, and wanted to share a great book that begs the question “What am I passionate about?” called “Sticks” by Joan Bauer. Three friends, all fifth-graders live in this dumpy NJ small town on a highway, but live for their passions: pool, math, and magic. It is a rare middle grade novel that exudes mathematical thinking but is about playing pool.
And, I felt like a dagger stuck me when I heard that those kids pay $3 a day…..
Doug Sadler (SadOne) says
Kids Love Cell Phones! So let’s use cell phones to motivate! I found even projects about cell phones can be fun for my students. Welcoming cell phones into a school can be a double edge sword but it is a battle worth fighting. Let’s embrace their world and bridge the gap with the content we are trying to teach.
Can you imagine. Good morning class, take out your cell phone and text … I bet you would have everyone’s attention. There is half the battle some time. The problem is not every student has a cell phone (yet) and who knows what they are really doing with it. Wasn’t that one of the first arguments when the internet was brought into the classroom. Teachers can be teachers and decide if the technology benefits their classroom. Why take away such a motivational tool!
Tyler Reed says
What a great post, Will! Fascinating tidbit about how kids check their cell phones in at convenience stores near the school.
Charlie A. Roy says
Cell phones, cell phones, cell phones! Why can’t we just treat the kids with mutual respect. My school allows them to have them on their person but not to use them except for an educational purpose. If they need to make a critical call they can go to the dean’s office and make that call on their cell.
Why we take them away i have no idea.
I teach in a middle school where cell phones are confiscated if they are not safely locked away in student lockers during the school day. One cell phone made it into the boys locker room this year and photographs were taken using the cell phone of another student in various stages of undress (he was unaware). Those photographs were temporarily posted on the web.
Because of the actions of the few, cell phones are banned for all.
Gum is also banned, for basically the same reason. Because of the few who stick their old gum on the bottom of tabletops and seats, sometimes leave it on top of seats to irritate the unobservant, or even on the floor, in the drinking fountain, on toilet seats in the bathroom.
So, no cell phones. Meanwhile, students are allowed to use our classroom telephones as needed.
Dave Winter says
Set them free
An organisation needs to be able to host others on its network as life without internet becomes informationally untenable. This is coupled with people’s realisation that their devices are wireless capable if only the environment in which they find themselves can provide network access.
Devices like this psp or the eeepc above or dare I say it phones.
The network the network the network.
Friends, sounds, opinions, information, differentiation, images, diversity, provocation, articulation, video, passive activity, aggregation, automation etc etc.
Outside of this there are many other applications of course but I feel the involvement of others is what makes the network the place to be.
The New Zealand Curriculum identifies five key competencies:
* using language, symbols, and texts
* managing self
* relating to others
* participating and contributing.
All of these are network related. Now I am not saying that
network infrastructure is all there is BUT I can’t see us resolving
key competencies without it. Making the kids pay price for cellphones on Weblogg-ed a sad read.
Let’s ensure our organisations have wireless networks that are secure but they
must be open and able to be utilised widely. What do you think??
Jim Gates says
I don’t konw if I ever relayed this story to you or not, but here goes…
Your comment about your blog being blocked reminds me of an incident that happened not long after you spoke at last year’s PETE&C “Snow Bowl” Conference. Someone from one of the state’s 29 Intermediate units in PA called me and asked if I had your contact information, as she wanted to contact you to do a workshop for them. I said that I did NOT have that information handy but that she could get it from your blog. She replied, “His blog is BLOCKED here at the IU.”
What??? They want to hire you to do a full day workshop on blogging and wikis, etc, but they BLOCK your blog? Doesn’t that just SCREAM “THIS IS INSANE!” to you?
We have SUCH a long way to go.
I think the question of whether or not cell phones can be effectively used in the classroom or whether they will be a distraction points toward a more fundamental question; the question of the teacher/student/administration relationship. In a classroom where collaboration between students and teachers is encouraged, these tools can be used as effectively as the Internet we were so worried about 10 years ago. If the relationship between teachers and students is adversarial, then the problem is not the technology; it is the relationship. Can we trust students to use the technology in a socially appropriate way? Certainly. Banning cell phones is not about banning cell phones; it is about the distrust between students and teachers.
C. Ashley says
While I think that it is important to get students to think about new ways to use all the technological tools they have at their fingertips, using cell phones in the classroom is just not a very realistic option. Even if students can use phones to make movies, write, or do “research,” cell phones are more of a hinderance in the classroom than anything else. Rarely will you find a student who would be writing lecture notes or Googling relevant facts instead of texting their friends or playing games. It’s great that we have these abilities with a cell phone and that students are aware of these abilities, but it just doesn’t have a very feasible place in the classroom.
As far as making students ‘check’ their cell phones, not only is it ridiculous to charge students to do this, but it makes me wonder how much faith we have in our students. Can’t basic rules (and common sense) be enough to stop students from using their phones inappropriately in class? High schoolers are not little children, they know better than to be chatting on their phone and whatnot during class. And if they don’t, they face the consequences the school sets in place. Charging for ‘phone storage’ is preposterous and, quite frankly, highway robbery.
Sue Wargo says
I have read each and every post on this subject because here at our school the cons have tilted our school on cell phone use. But hey people let’s not be mean to each other. I feel the comments getting sanctimonious and a tad nasty. That should not be the point here. AT our school we wrestled with what to do. We gave in to kids on some use hoping they would rise to the occasion at other times. Some teachers are giving out their personal cell numbers and even letting students text them on issues. Unfortunately, I think it is the nature of adolescents to rebel. I see no lessening of the inappropriate use. I am taking more phones away than ever. When students have exceeded the school policy which is pretty liberal, parents just deactivate the phone in the principal’s drawer and buy Johnny or Mary a new one. Since we have changed and given latitude to our students, abuse has gotten worse. It’s like people who think everyone wants to hear their conversation in restaurant or rudely don’t care. I don’t think it’s at all about a lack of innovation on the part of teachers. It’s as much about a selfish society that has no limits or boundaries any more. Our modelling means nothing when you don’t have parental support. A parent who thinks that if their child doesn’t have a cell phone that they’ll be abducted. Good bad or indifferent we can’t solve that here. All we can do is point out things to each other that worked and haven’t. This should not be about my blog is better than your blog and point fingers of inadequacy. That surely is not what I care to read. Thanks to all of you who have commiserated and shared your wonderful ideas.
As much as I would like to say I agree with you, I can’t.
While, in a perfect world, schools should teach their students the proper way to use a cell phone while working, we often have our hands full with other priorities.
As a former teacher and Admin. in a NYC high school in Brooklyn, the safety of our student body must always come first and foremost. Kids fight over what many would consider silly- he bumped me in the hall, she stepped on my sneaker, he kissed my girlfriend, etc. One on one fights between students have occurred for eons. With the advent of cell phones, these altercations can rapidly escalate. Pretty soon, these one on one fights turn into five on ones or ten on eights. Some of these incidents are the parents fighting parents over the actions of their children. I saw this happen on more than occasion. Not only are the students involved with this silliness at risk of being harmed, but the other students watching the chaos are as well. And so are the staff members who have to try to break up this incident. Some of my colleagues have been seriously hurt breaking up fights.
I commend Joel Klein for making this commitment to student safety.
Wow! I’m equally as impressed by the number of comments as I am the learning that took place in the classrooms Will visited. Cell phones are allowed on campus at our school, but they must be turned off and put away during the day. If the students have them out, then they are taken up and will be returned at the end of the day. Since I teach in a tech class, I have decided to ask for permission to allow some teaching/learning with cell phones for brief periods of time. It would be cool!
David Muir says
I know the focus of your post was on what the students are losing (financially and educationally) but the bit the leapt out at me was the use of metal detectors to catch students carrying phones. I’m afraid I went off on a bit of a rant. 🙂
“Mobile phones – A Weapon of Mass Instruction”
Thanks for an interesting and challenging post.
John Iverson says
Interesting comments… For one student’s perspective, go to http://www.threesixtyjournalism.org/video and view “When cell phones come to school.” It is a short piece developed by one of my students.