Thursday, August 13, 2009

Please Turn on Your Cell Phone

Editor's Note: Below is an excerpt from a terrific post written my personal learning network colleague Juliette LaMontagne who, among other things, is working with schools to expore ways to harness the power of the mobile devices students use (i.e. iPods, phones, cameras) for instruction. This post was published at The Design Observer Group which features news about design and social innovation.

Mobile devices aren't distractions in schools; they're machines for learning.
By Juliette LaMontagne

It might surprise you to learn that students from New York City’s most impoverished neighborhoods arrive at school each day with personal computers. The problem is that they deposit these powerful learning tools at the nearby bodega — where they’re held like a coat check service for a dollar a day — because their personal computers are cell phones, and they are banned by New York City’s school chancellor, Joel Klein. Many students will circumvent the ban by blind-texting from their backpacks or from the bathroom. But it’s not that simple for those who have to pass through metal detectors and scanners to gain entry into the school building each day.

The rationale for the cell phone ban will not surprise you: critics claim the phones are distracting, can be used to cheat and add no educational value. In a speech to the National Urban League, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “You come to school to learn, not to play games or send text messages.” Apparently, his words were aimed at students and administrators alike; last month, text-messaging service on all Department of Education issued devices was disabled. Only weeks earlier, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, came out in support of cell phone use saying, “Finding ways to use cell phones to deliver lesson plans to students would improve education and meet federal guidelines.”

To read the whole story click here. Be sure to check out (and leave) comments too such as this one.

Will Richardson 08.13.09 at 08:12
There is no question that schools in general are not taking advantage of the potential learning power of phones, but as with most technology integration, that's because of a fear of change and a lack of pedagogical understanding on the part of educators. I ask teachers all the time, "how do you use technology (read: the Web, your phone, etc") to learn?" and it's difficult for many to answer. Like many students, they've never had models for effective learning with technology (as opposed to information retrieval, which admittedly, hasn't been great either.) I'm not blaming them, but I am suggesting that if we want to take advantage of the undeniable potential for learning with technology, we have to help educators be learners in those contexts first. I want my children to be taught how to use their mobile devices to create and publish and connect, but I also want that done by adults who know how to do that for themselves.


  1. Now that I have a Google Voice account, I am using my cell phone to interact with students.

    It is especially useful when seeking information from the whole class during a lesson or after a quiz. Students know that they can provide me paper-and-pencil feedback or text me.

    I also have the opportunity to help kids in real time with issues like transportation.

    Before Google Voice, I wasn't comfortable with the possibility that I might be accused of misusing the technology. Because everything is archived, I no longer have this concern.

  2. I agree. Cell phones are an untapped tool for teachers and students. Most students have phones that can text and even surf the web. Use them. Have them text answers to you. Have them research things with them. Put these tools that 95% of all high school students have to good use.

    Dave (