Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Criminalizing & profiting off students is wrong

Little has changed here in NYC since the Mayor decided we'd treat students like criminals, have em go through metal detectors and force em to give up their digital devices upon entering school. 

Since then I have written more than 100 articles, taught classes, and a written book about the benefits of harnessing the power of cell phones for learning. This especially made sense when the cell phone-banning city  I work in was distributing the devices to thousands of students as part of an incentive program that won the Cannes Lion Titanium Award

Unfortunately, even after the writing, teaching, and distributing of devices, kids are still banned from using their personal learning devices. 

A couple years ago Will Richardson explained the important lessons this teaches kids.
  1. It teaches them that they don’t deserve to be empowered with technology the same way adults are.
  2. Tools that adults use all the time in their everyday lives to communicate are not relevant to their own communication needs.
  3. They can’t be trusted (or taught, for that matter) to use phones appropriately in school.
Not only are we teaching kids these misguided lessons, but as recently reported in the NY Post & Huffington Post, they must pay an outside company to store them. These companies are making millions every year off our kids.  

So, I suggest this.

Rather than create a system of fear and compliance, why not lift the ban, empower students to use the devices responsibly and support teachers in incorporating the use of mobile devices for learning?


  1. I am oppose of the thought to allow phones in the school. Students can use them in unwanted situation and will lead to wrong way. Unless and until some strict action did not taken by the school community for using of phones in the school, it should be banned.

    1. @Highton Schools,
      Are you saying it is not possible for students to act responsibly? Are you saying it is not possible to have agreed upon consequences for those who do? Have you been to any schools or talked to any teachers that incorporate the use of student devices into learning? They don't have the problems you have lead to imagine do exist. Trust and respect go a long way.

  2. I agree that mobile devices could be a great way to teach. However, I also agree that phones shouldn't be allowed. I don't think it's as much about criminalising students as it is about protecting them. Cyber bullying is such a big issue now and today's mobile devices make it far too easy. The ban also prevents the possibility of bullying because of model etc, it's short sighted to expect every student to have a smart device/phone and those without or with older models could be bullied.

    Until more control over mobile devices is an option for parents/schools then I'll remain under the belief that possessing one should have a 16yr old age restriction, just like films, games, gambling etc, all of which can be unsuitable for certain age groups but are possible for children with the aid of a mobile device. Let kids be kids.

    1. @TEZofAllTrades,
      How are we protecting students if we're not preparing them to responsibly use the tools of their world. The kids have the phones and they're paying 4 million a year in one city alone to store them. Banning doesn't protects them. It just makes it easier for the school leaving the students unprepared to responsibly use technology.

      ==it's short sighted to expect every student to have a smart device/phone and those without or with older models could be bullied.==
      Not sure what article you are responding to here. Where did you see it stated that every student should have a smartphone or the same phone. They should have what they have, just like in the real world. Do you think kids don't know what kind of phones their peers have? Come on? They're all dropping em off and picking em up in the same place. They know. Let's deal with bullying rather than ignoring the issue.

      ==Until more control over mobile devices is an option for parents/schools==
      What are you talking about? What kind of control? Have you ever been to a school that teaches responsible use and incorporates the use of student the devices? The teachers have updated classroom management practices in these schools and the students have learned to use devices responsibly. They are using them responsibly not at your magically random number of 16 but at the age they have the devices in the real world which is btw the world we should be preparing them for.

  3. Bullying and off task behaviors existed in the classroom well before cell phones came into being. The cell phone however is the latest target for explaining the "problem" rather than addressing the real issues that are causing the student to disengage. I have here a tongue-in-cheek letter to parents that blames a student's behavior on paper and pencil.
    Instead of blaming the cell phone on behaviors that are not academic, perhaps we need to look at our own practice and determine what we can/should do to engage students and help them succeed.

  4. @Micheal Williams,
    Love that. Please contact me and let me know if I can share as a guest post and how to properly credit you if I can.

  5. The fact that you find this pen and paper idea so witty doesn't convince anyone that cell phones are appropriate in schools/classrooms. You're making an analogy that isn't really there. The key is to rid classrooms of distractions as much as possible. A pencil and paper is far removed from the distraction that is possible from a mobile device.