Friday, February 13, 2009

Principal Complains “The PA State House wants schools to return to 1971” Just Like They’ve Done at The NYC DOE

Last night my respected colleague Chris Lehmann, principal of The Science Leadership Academy posted this on FaceBook, “PA State House wants schools to return to 1971: Bill 363,” to which he quickly received more than a dozen comments and then a couple hours later wrote this blog post, Take Action Stop Bill 363 which also elicited several replies from disturbed educators, leaders, and students and a few more blog posts and links. All the hoopla is about a new bill being passed in PA that will ban pagers, cell phones, and portable electronic devices used for recording video and audio.

There are at least two stories here.

1) The power of social media to mobilize a movement – Go Chris!!!

2) Politicians making choices such as banning electronic devices which should be left in the hands of school leaders.

So, here’s what’s happened so far, less than 12 hours later.

A blog post PA ban on "portable electronic devices" in schools and link to another Rethinking Cell Phones in School.

An email to a state representative (excerpt),

“This is a giant step backwards in a state that is at the forefront of technology use and 21st century skills through Classrooms for the Future. The only way to assure wise and responsible use of technologies is through open discussion and modeling of appropriate use, not through the banishment of technology. We stand to lose greatly if this bill is passed.”

A student responds sharing,

“As one of the students who would be affected by this (currently attending SLA) I have to say that this, like many attempts to filter schools, is an act of poor judgment on the part of the government and that by limiting our resources they also limit our education. If the teacher and students have the will to take the use of these devices in to the class room like we have at SLA then I think (and I believe many people would agree with me) that we should let them. Personally I can think of at least 5 times in the last week where having my iPod was beneficial to me and could be beneficial to other students.
#4 Patrick Woodburn on 2009-02-12 22:20 (Reply)

Here’s what Chris is saying in his post,

“The more we ban, prohibit, regulate and legislate, the less we teach. If we want students to learn how to manage their lives, we have to let them live them. This law creates more distance between our schools and the lives our kids lead. That makes it harder for us to teach, not easier. The short-term gain of keeping distractions out of our classrooms is, in my belief, far outweighed by the long-term loss of making our schools less and less relevant to kids. Fortunately, PA educators are mobilizing against the bill. There's a Facebook group and an online petition, but we can and must do more. Please, especially if you are a PA resident, call, write letters, sign the petition, send emails and pass the word. This bill will set back our schools. Help ensure its defeat.”

You can check out the Facebook group legislative letters here.

As I wrote on Chris’s blog, “You have the perfect students to lead in mobilizing a movement. I can't think of a better way to get students involved in literacy, social studies, and more. This is an issue as you know that goes far beyond PA. Get those kids making some videos and starting some virtual and physical grassroots protesting. We're looking to SLA to fight the good fight!"

#3 InnovativeEdu (Link) on 2009-02-12 21:33 (Reply)


Related Posts

The Value of Using Cell Phones to Enhance Education and Some Concrete Ways to Do So

Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children’s Learning.


  1. Lisa-
    As much as I respect Chris and you (and I LOVE SLA!!!) I still can't get behind cell phones in schools. I think all schools should be 1-to-1 with laptops, and that this should be the dominant equipment students use to navigate the 21st century. I have not seen cell phones be anything but distractions and unhelpful bridges to the outside world for middle schoolers. Maybe it is different at the high school level, and I'll concede that the maturity of older adolescents should be recognized. But at the middle school level? No thanks!

  2. @Jason, while I respect and understand your decision as a building leader to ban cell phones and portable electronic devices, don't leaders like Chris deserve the same respect and freedom to make decisions about what is right for their students, faculty, and parents? As the line between laptops and phones becomes increasingly blurred we are walking a dangerous line allowing lawmakers, rather than innovative educators decide what is right in our schools.

  3. The debate continues here:

    and here:

    I completely agree that individual school districts and their administrators should be making the policies regarding cell phones. This should not be mandated by politicians who are unfamiliar with educational pedagogy.


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