Friday, February 18, 2011

Banned in School

An essential element for 21st century learning is thinking outside the ban, however, many schools fail to do this banning the very items that are crucial to success in the world. When viewing this compilation of items banned in school it is clear we are not preparing students for success in the world.


  1. As Clay Shirky (2011) in his talk titled, Social Media vs. the Dictator states, new communication media is used in environments where freedom is high as entertainment but applied to places where freedom is low these become tools for coordinated action (take the recent Middle East protests for examples).

    I am fortunate enough to work and be a part of a school community (an international school outside the US) that does not ban social media but views new communication platforms as opportunities for learning. However, what I wonder is why in the public education system in arguably one of the freest and most democratic countries on the planet so strongly against the use of these platforms? Is it that they have something they do not want those within to organize against?

  2. What if these things are not banned for the reasons described, but for the limited amount of bandwidth available? If curricular programs are in need of that bandwidth, we have to start limiting use somewhere, right? Can we trust that students and professionals will use these resources responsibly in conjunction with one another? If we can, why do we continually find that the top talkers on web use in the school are ebay, NYSE, sports illustrated, etc. even in an environment that may not be able to handle YouTube and other streaming sites?

  3. Some of these things I can see how rational people could ban them, even if I don't agree with the ban.

    Playing games at recess? Giving hugs and holding hands? Seriously how messed up are some schools? These are fundamental acts of being human. How can you ban expression of our humanity?

  4. @Elizabeth Wargo, I couldn't agree more. I think there is a fear of a student revolution if we let students have access to an unfiltered internet. As Marc Prensky says, students will vote for what they think is important with their attention and the educational system is afraid of that as they should be.
    @Patrick, yours is an easy issue to address. Increase the bandwidth. The end. We wouldn't tell businesses they couldn't operate because we couldn't bother to provide bandwidth. Equity and access to internet is no longer a privilege it's a right and schools need to figure it out or render themselves irrelevant...which btw, they're already on a fast path to becoming.
    @David, I too can see how rational people who want to, as Eric Shenninger says, "Take the Easy Way Out." Banning is a cop out that doesn't prepare students for life, but it sure makes everyone jobs a lot easier.

  5. @ David -Or more specifically why is it productive to ban expressions of our humanity? Sure teaching students to power down and unplug is essential but not allowing them to connect beyond place and time structured by the classroom is not going to get us where we need to be. If students don't have the ability to connect responsibly in schools we are missing a valuable and essential learning opportunity.

  6. @Leslie Were it only that easy! I should say that I don't disagree with any of the things said, but limited resources are limited resources. In light of that fact, which cannot be explained away as easy as "fix it!" How do we prioritize?

  7. @Elizabeth Wargo, ahmen.
    @Patrick, providing equity and access is as easy as “fix it.” Almost every business in America has figured out how to provide proper resources to their staffs. Schools are suppose to help students become career ready. For many jobs, that requires a device that can access the internet. Schools that care, do figure it out. Schools that don't prioritize this, do not.

    Why not call out the purple elephant in the room and deal with the real issue at hand. The tests aren't on computers so why bother giving them to kids. Especially, when research shows that tech-savvy kids will do worse on traditional, outdated tests, then the kids who deprive students of this right.

    The problem is not the limited resources. That's all smoke and mirrors. Resources are limited by design. Schools that prioritize equity and access do fix it. They see a laptop and internet equivalent to having lights in a classroom.

    One simple step in the direction to increase resources is to stop banning personal learning devices. Poof. I've just saved the educational system billions on tech they don't have to buy, replace or repair. Now they can put those funds toward providing internet to our students, but since it’s not on the test...they won’t.

  8. I love the blog, but I'm not sold on this point yet. Resources are not smoke and mirrors...they are resources. Now, your point about what we focus on and the testing required etc. is a good point. The shift needs to happen with the priorities. How do you make people understand that who have not displayed the ability to do so to this point. This is my dilemma. Personal devices and their use in school is a great idea, but at some point we deal with furthering the digital divide when Alex brings his ipad and Benecia has nothing to bring. Corey doesn't have an unlimited texting plan and DeShawn has a new iphone. I need to reiterate that it isn't that I disagree, but that there are other things that get in the way with the ideal. That's where I live! Thanks for your blog and your thoughtful open views!!!!

  9. @Patrick, I'm not saying the resources are smoke and mirrors, I'm saying the excuses are smoke and mirrors. Do you how much NYC spent on testing and data collection? 80 million. Now if equity and access were a priority rather than measuring outdated test results, a lot of our equity/access issues would be addressed.

    The other thing is school leaders and educators need to stop waiting for someone else to get students resources. We need to be advocates for getting what our students deserve. More than ten years ago I built a computer lab with devices donated after I found a company was updating their equipment then I had a friend come in and hook it up. I wrote donorschose grants. I partnered with community organizations. I reached out to a law firm and got a 50k worth of books and technology by working with them to put together a fun program where they worked directly with the kids. So, yes. I'm still saying, if we care, we need to fix it. If we don't we'll all still be sitting in the dark ages.

  10. @Patrick, to your second point of the digital divide growing because not all have access. I address this in my upcoming book where I say, for the kids who don't have, get it. Go on Craigslist and post that you want a device. A friend of mine just got a laptop from a facebook status update sharing she needed one. We need students and teachers to have agency. Talk to a business, make a partnership. Get a student a mentor that might be able to help.

    And...of course, the school needs devices that can be borrowed.

    It really can be fixed but many people really don't want to update teaching. Those that do, get it done.

  11. Just to keep the record straight: As a business man, access to the Internet is not andissue of bandwidth; it's an issue of the needs for the business. Employees have access to Internet content in most cases, but it is highly restrictive. Just as employees need to concentrate on what they must do withing their job responsibilities, the student needs to pay attention to what the teacher is teaching while in the classroom. Sure, there are many tools the teacher can use from the Internet to educate the student, but it should be at the discretion of the teacher as to what these are, It must not be what the student wants.

  12. First, let me begin by saying that in theory, I agree that we should have learner freedoms to learn as they want and schools should provide all the resources needed.

    With that said, I don't think it is an simple as flipping a switch and letting kids use their cell phones, laptops, open sites, etc. any time they want to.

    Here's why:

    1. As Patrick said above, bandwidth. Not just the tech bandwidth, but the human bandwidth as well. I beleive in teaching students how to use the tools in an ethical and responsible way. Do we have the staff and the training (not theoretical, but in reality) who have the skills and time to immerse this into the classroom?
    2. I believe that part of what school is should be "coercing" kids into being exposed to things they would not choose if left to their own devices. If on their own, kids would choose ESPN, Facebook, and video games. Very few, if any would choose Shakespeare, Calculus, and Advanced Physics. Part of the mission of school is exposing them to this so they know what (or what not) to study when they get older.
    3. They are still kids. As a parent, as much as I believe in letting my kids self-explore and have access, they are still kids and lack self control and make ill-informed or poor decisions. I don't think a lot of kids (let alone adults) have the self control NOT to be distracted by many of the tools that are "banned". I was at a PD conference recently where the teachers (adults) were not listening to the speaker and instead were playing on their phones, surfing the web, and shopping. If educated adults can't control themselves, how can we hope kids to?
    4. I am all for innovation. I think the tools should be available for teacher discretionary use. If they want to use FB or cell phones for a lesson or unit- great. But it shouldn't be open access, all the time. Give TEACHERS the power to control student access based on their needs and skill.
    5. Economic realities. I wish we had unlimited funds. Now with a 2% cap in NJ, hard choices need to be made. It is a hard sell to the public (who 100% fund our schools) to say that class sizes are going up and we are letting teachers go, but we are buying laptops and hiring support technicians.
    6. Educating parents and community. People "know" school as they were educated. Not to it is right, b/c it isn't...but that is what they know. Look no further than the current rhetoric of what a "bad" teacher is. Most likely that impression is not based on skill or results but on how a teacher made you or your child feel. The public needs to be educated on what 21st century needs are...and businesses don;t seem to be pressuring schools to change their ways.

    I'm ready for your push back....

  13. Okay, Barry. Good to know you're ready. Too much for a comment. Here's a link to my response

  14. Hey Lisa,
    I hear and appreciate all the comments regarding the use of technology in the schools; however I would like to comment on some of the other things that are being banned such as Hugs, High Fives, and Holding Hands. Is this because schools are giving in to the germophopic concerns/demands that some parents have? Or is this because of concerns over aggressive kids or because of concerns/demands being placed on administrators at schools by parents because their little one was hurt. Well, I've seen and experienced both sides to an injury, and I believe that "It takes a village to raise a child". My son has been hurt, and has caused hurt, and both times he has gone through a very important learning process that cannot be duplicated, nor have a such a major impact as to see, and feel what happened. If we remove the ability for kids to learn at a young age what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior, we are setting them up for failure. These kids, whether the aggressor or the victim, will grow up to have unrealistic ideas of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable physical contact as adults. Is this really what we want for our kids? As a parent I understand the fear of my kids being hurt, and I can appreciate a parent’s natural instinct to protect our kids no matter what….but if we don’t allow some bumps and bruises along the way…..we are not really teaching them anything, nor are we allowing them natural opportunities to learn from their interactions.


  15. Hi Lisa,

    I have similar feelings when it comes to the “No Bikes/Boards/Blades” banning. Is this because FEAR has been instilled into the schools because parents of students who have been injured are demanding that these things be banned? Or is it because of the FEAR of parents suing the school, using their child’s injury as an opportunity to receive a cash windfall, instead of using their child’s injury as an opportunity to teach their child about what went wrong. I can see FEAR causing schools to just ban these things, simply because it’s easier, and I don’t blame them one bit! It can cost lots of money to repair/change everything that can possibly cause an injury, but that doesn’t stop future injuries. Why? Because students will try some sort of new trick on another piece of equipment meant for another sport, and will somehow find a way to pass blame and responsibility back onto the schools shoulders when they get injured. Schools don’t want to discourage physical activity so what can they do to protect themselves and still allow these things? Well….as well as repair or change the problem area identified, the school could have students and parents sign waivers, releasing the school of their financial responsibility due to injury (thus allowing the students the opportunity to enjoy these things), but then it is an administrative nightmare having to chase down the forms, and make sure only those kids who have signed forms are biking/boarding/blading. What school would have the resources to want to deal with that daily? It beg’s the question…..At what age do we start teaching our kids that they are responsible for their own actions? If you ride a skateboard down a stair railing and you get hurt, coming to the principal’s office to complain about the fact that you got hurt only sets the stage for everyone to not be able to bring their boards to school for fear that they will make the same bad choice! If you’re brave enough to use a skateboard down a railing, then be brave enough to own your actions, and be brave enough to own your responsibility for that injury! It’s pretty simple!

    Elizabeth (2)

  16. Hi again...

    You happened to also mention storage for these items….is storage really the issue? If so, then shouldn’t the students take some responsibility for this on their own as well? Schools provide lockers….if it fits in there, great. If it doesn’t fit, then I guess you’ll have to make a decision! Why should the school be responsible to provide alternative storage? If they were to start doing that, there would be no end to the varying needs, and at some point reason has to set in and we should be rational enough to know that the school shouldn’t be responsible for ensuring that you can secure your banana board that doesn’t fit into your locker. A bike rack is usually not a problem for most schools to provide….. but locks to secure your bike is your own personal responsibility! Ultimately a school is not going to take responsibility for storage of these items because of the FEAR that they will be responsible if something goes wrong! Well guess what…..just like taking a pencil to school runs a risk that it might get taken or mixed into some other students pencil case… bring things to school at YOUR OWN RISK so be careful with them and be responsible with them. Don’t expect to take them to school and be allowed to have them in the classroom…’s personal property that belongs in your assigned locker. It’s NOT to be a distraction in the classroom. And…..know that no one is going to replace it if it get’s stolen….so as a student, you need to way out the pro’s and con’s and decide if taking it is worth the risk. If it’s not, then keep it at home and use it when you get home after school! My own son’s DS was stolen from him at school and destroyed….he was devastated, but learned a lifelong lesson about being more responsible with his possessions and has learned to way his risks associated with the decisions he makes. This is a lesson that cannot be must be experienced for the lesson to stick!

    Fire away…

    Elizabeth (3)

  17. @Elizabeth, to clarify, I mean that a school should provide for a place for students to park/store whether it’s a car, bike, board, etc. Being green is good for kids health and good for our environment. The same rules should apply to a stolen bike as they would for a stolen car. I’m not a lawyer, but I believe car insurance would cover the car and a families home/apartment insurance covers other items like bikes and boards. That is the way it works in New York. I’m sure the school could also have waivers signed if that was necessary saying a child is agreeing to be responsible for their own belongings.

  18. @Elizabeth, touching is banned because schools are afraid it may lead to something inappropriate either sexual or physical. I haven’t heard anything in relation to germs.

  19. @Elizabeth, The banning of bikes, boards, and blades is due to fear of injury, but as cited on the Free Range Mom blog, there are many more injuries in cars, then there are on bikes, boards, blades (with proper safety gear). Regarding your question about what can schools do to protect themselves, I’d say the same thing they do when there is an injury due to a car on their premises. I don’t know how the law works, but transporting yourself to school seems like it should belong to the student and parent, not the school.

  20. My school and others are just not prepared to let go of the illusion of control.Note, I said illusion--educators are fighting a losing battle when we attempt to keep students (esp. high school) from using their cell phones in class. The only time students willingly detach themselves from these extensions of their body is during standardized testing (most understand and accept this situation). I'd love to work in an innovative school that could meet students where they really live.

  21. My district isn't always as innovative as I would like (but WAY more than our district neighbors!) but my administrator is innovative! When I come to him about a QR Code lesson using smart phones & iPod Touch G4's he supports me! We have to dare to make a difference, fight the filter & locked net monster, & do our best to provide for our most important customers- our kids.
    We're also doing a disservice to our kids by not giving them early, pervasive & effective social media ed - like sex ed to for teens it's vital to their development - cause you know they're gonna do it anyway - better with knowledge, discernment, & ethics.
    Would have liked to have contributed to the preso but couldn't get access. But I really love where this is going - it's vital message!
    Thank you & Cheers!
    ~Gwyneth Jones
    The Daring Librarian

  22. while I support BYOD(T) in schools and getting rid of filters to the internet it is not so simple as schools just doing it. With schools being sued all the time and the feds restricting monies to schools who do not filter the internet there is a lot to lose by just moving ahead without a plan. Until the feds and the courts figure out what is right (will that ever happen) ther are ways to develop your own social network and still stay within these regulations and protect your district from being sued. The only other option is to give up federal funds like Erate which in my school, with our budget is just not a reasonable request.