All-teacher email messages can be a funny thing. Sometimes they’re very positive and encouraging in nature (“Hey, did anyone catch the play this weekend? Good job everyone involved!”), and other times, like today, they take on sharper tones. I’d be lying if I said I never got sucked into it, but today I sat on my hands while people argued about our school’s new cellphone/”electronic entertainment device” policy.
Our new policy (in a nutshell) allows for the use of iPods & mobile phones at lunch and in the hallways between classes, but not during class (current policy is no use at all, anywhere during school day). Consequences escalate with each subsequent infraction, but all involve confiscation of the device. This policy will be piloted during the 4th quarter of this school year and evaluated over the summer.
The email that kicked it all off challenged proponents of the new policy to defend it. From there, the emails came thick and fast. By and large, responses revolved around one of these themes:
- FINALLY we’re allowed to confiscate phones – what took so long?!
- We’re too soft on these kids
- Why don’t we just jam the cell signals?
- They banned them in NYC; why can’t we ban them here?
- If you didn’t sit on the committee, you have no right to complain (not explicitly stated, but implied)
To my dismay, nobody actually used the phrases “In my day” or “When I was their age”, but the pseudo-rant that I can only hope was a poorly written attempt at satire more than made up for it in the “missing the point” department. Also to my dismay, not a single response dealt with the possibility of using mobile phones in a classroom context. I was getting frustrated reading these responses, and decided to craft my own. After a quick Twitter shout-out for some links to add to my existing collection, I wrote the following:
Amid the talk of mobile phones at school, I’d like to highlight the part of the policy that allows for teacher discretion of use in class (…they’re to be turned off “unless approved by the staff member in charge.”).
Some of the links below go to discussions and presentations on the emerging use of mobile phone technology in education, and others are to specific applications that can either be infused into the curriculum or used as organizational aids; the latter use might be particularly useful for our students with learning disabilities and the oft-attendant organizational issues (I use Jott and GoPingMe all the time).
This, like other technologies, is simply another tool for which we have an opportunity to explore and model not only appropriate use, but also potential pedagogical benefits.
http://www.edutechie.com/2007/06/8-ways-to-use-camera-phones-in-education/ http://www.slideshare.net/satonner/mobile-phones-in-education-constructive-not-deconstructive-124979/ http://www.math4mobile.com/index.html
My email was followed about an hour later by one from the head of the committee that developed this policy. She provided some links to old favorites of the edublogosphere like Did You Know? 2.0 and A Vision of Students Today, as well as some other stuff based on Prensky, Gardner, et al. Nothing new to most people reading this blog, but potentially (I hope) discussion-starting for my faculty.
My biggest beef with this policy is the confiscation; I don’t like it at all, but I guess I have to live with it, at least for a few months. While not perfect, I think it is FAR preferable to dropping the ban-hammer on 3,200 students (good luck enforcing that, by the way) or mandating a multiple-day suspension for multiple infractions (as appeared in the original draft, since removed).
I’ll be following the grapevine at school with great interest between now and June, and looking forward to the committee’s post-trial evaluation report.