Sunday, June 28, 2009

Social networking 1 - cell phones

I've been reading recently about the use of cell phones and ipods in schools. Andrew Douch is clearly a fan as his students download his podcasts onto their ipods. As is Andrew Trotter in his article for Education Week (Jan 7, 2009). Liz Kolb in 2008 wrote an article headed Toys to Tools: Connecting student cell phones to education and has a blog at devoted to the issue.

The basic idea they share is that students can use their cell phones in class for educational things - accessing podcasts, taking notes and photos to compile reports, organising schedules and homework with reminders about deadlines...because -
“Mobile devices are part of the fabric of children’s lives today: They are here
to stay,” Michael H. Levine, the executive director of the New York City-based
Joan Ganz Cooney Center, at Sesame Workshop, wrote in a statement accompanying the release of the report. “It is no longer a question of whether we should use
these devices to support learning, but how and when to use them.”

Now I like to be a positive person, I really do. I always like to think the best of people and I don't doubt that Andrew Douch is a supreme teacher whose energy will overwhelm his students and that they are all focused on doing the right thing. Mr Levine is right too - mobile devices are here to stay. But I do have reservations about cell phones in class. I also wonder if many of these advocates have actually taught a class in the brave new environment. Liz (above) is a doctoral student with three years teaching experience in the late 1990s. We're not in that world anymore. Teachers, generally, have adapted hugely to the modern world of the now. They continue to grow through continuous professional development. But they are not miracle workers with endless supplies of patience.

At the Principal conference that I attended earlier in the year Andrew Douch addressed the Principals and asked who had rules in their schools banning the use of cell phones. We all looked at each other, shame faced. Some brave souls even put their hands up! Most of us did/do have rules about the use of technology in the classroom. And for good reason.

My experience in the UK for three years (2004-2006) showed me how detrimental cell phone use was to learning. Okay - I admit it - I saw no positive use of mobile phones (they laughed at the term cell phone!) while I was there. Instead the wayward use of phones would often lead to 'discussions' and awkward moments between teacher-student which all detracted from the learning and focus and the fostering of a positive relationship. And that's important because - 'Your focus determines your reality' (Qui-Gon Jinn). Suddenly a phone would ring or a student would be sending a txt and then the 'discussion' would take place and then we're all in a world of negativity. I'd love to hear the advocates answers to these moments. Do they ignore them? Encourage them? Abraid themselves?

My problem with the thrust for encouraging students to use their phones for instructional purposes is that students don't see the distinction. It's all 'instructional' from their point of view. When the inevitable inappropriate use happens they have no clue why we have a problem. They are merely fulfilling their instant gratification gene. Chill man! Or in extreme cases it leads on to a greater disrespect.

Is all this making me sound very fuddy duddy?? Well, yes, it is. I know it could be a potentially great tool and I am a fan of technology as this weblog proves, but I'm not about to embrace a new technology just for the sake of it when I know the downside. I'd need a lot more convincing that cell phone use in my school wouldn't lead to increased txt bullying, disrupted classes, frazzled teachers, cheating, inappropriate/unsanctioned photos and videos on youtube before I'm converted.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Barry Bachenheimer said...

I think you have very valid points about not embracing it right away. It is like a new medicine. Sure, there are benefits, but do the harmful side effects outweigh its effectiveness? If teachers can accomplish the same instructional goal with another method that doesn't have the potentially "disruptive" side effects, then there is no need to use "that" kind of technology. The goal is always learning, not technology use.