Sunday, August 12, 2012

Not good for the gander?

During a recent Digital Age Learning conference, participants were asked to bring an artifact to to represent the completion of one of these sentences.  

  • I learn best when....
  • My favorite new idea is...
  • I know I understand something when....
  • When I need help I...

Everyone was asked to reveal their artifact and find three people who were given questions different than themselves and discuss why they choose the artifact they did.  I was very pleased with my choice and ready to open some eyes.
What happened next both surprised me and caused me to smirk.
Nearly every person had the same artifact. Sadly, though, like the teacher’s edition of a textbook, this artifact that many adults choose learning, understanding, getting help and new ideas, is off limits to students today.  

The artifact was a cell phone.  
Everyone excitedly shared how it helped them learn by providing them access to material, resources, learning networks, enabled them to capture ideas, get help, and achieve greater understanding in numerous ways.

Unfortunately, many schools are stuck in a culture where the teacher’s knowledge is power and their students can only access that knowledge via them.  This artificial method of cutting students off and keeping them stuck in the past is both unjust and denies them what should be a basic right in schools: A student’s freedom to learn with the tools necessary for success in the world.  

Administrators, teachers, parents, and students need to stand up, work to break the ban, and demand the right to learn with the tools their teachers know are necessary for optimal success in school and in life.  

Check out Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning for more ideas about thinking outside the ban to harness the power of student-owned devices for learning including policies, contracts, management ideas, and research.


  1. I wonder if teachers who advocate cell phone use in class can put themselves in the position of someone who cannot afford one...
    I can't imagine having a cell phone that does anything other than just dial a number. A "SMART" phone is soooo out of my financial reach that I cannot even consider entering the debate about using cell phones in school. I just bought a new cell phone and seriously shopped every plan in the end I can afford my 3cents a minute trac fone and that's about it.

    Maybe if more people can afford them and use them this would not be an debate.

    Maybe the issue is not should we use cell phones but how do we make them more affordable(I know how silly that sounds). I bet there is a huge correlation between people who have smart phones and advocate their school use, and those who don't and say phones should stay out of schools.

    I just find it hard to argue and defend the use of something I have never used, and will never be able to use for the foreseeable future. It's kind of like the guy who can only afford the beat-up Hyundai going around and advocating that everyone should buy a Porsche. Or let's flip do you think the guy who could only afford the Hyundai feel if every time he went to the mechanic he was told to buy a Porsche?

    1. Mr Bogush, I don't know what country you live in but here in the US smart phones are given for free by most companies for a contract. I have taught in four of the poorest schools in el paso tx usa. 100% of my students are economically disadvantaged. 100% of them have smart phones. They would rather go without food and water then part with their phone.

    2. At my alternative high school in Colorado students' cell phones are their life lines. When they are couch surfing, homeless, and hungry they work hard to maintain a phone that will text. Talking is not their concern, but being able to text. It is how they line up rides, places to stay, and potential jobs. It is how I keep them connected with school and show I care. When they are without minutes or texting their stress level is much higher, much more so than they are without shoes or are wearing flip flops or slippers in the winter. When we use phones for educational activities and a student does not have a phone we share, we partner, we work together. There is no need for a smart phone (the Porsche of cell phones). We do fine with Hyundais, a simple phone that texts. In taking Mr. Bogush's advice, I put myself in the position of someone who cannot afford one and I find that I am motivated to get a job, stop smoking, and/or get an education so that I can get a phone. When I get to partner with someone and use texting for learning, I love it because I get to text. It are those teachers that are hating phones that don't get me.
      At DOS we help kids get phones and they are so grateful that they work very hard to graduate. There are many programs such as SWAP, Wal-mart grants, etc that are available to help students who need phones. They are actually less expensive than text books and they do not get lost or left in someone's car, at a party, or damaged. They open up a world of educational opportunities and connections and are always giving up to date information (textbooks are one subject and stuck in the year they were published). I know my students' choice, and my choice. I want to empower my students, don't you?

    3. To build on what Jim Carlson said, I just got a top of the line smartphone for $49. I can get data on it by connecting to a wireless network...which should be provided by schools and is provided at many places in communities. I'm just not buying the "it's too expensive" argument any longer. Companies are handing phones out for free or nearly free and it is not acceptable for schools to not have updated wireless. I know that they don't in many schools, but having an outdated infrastructure is something that we all must fight to change. We know that to be successful in the world companies and businesses couldn't operate that way and we should expect the same of our schools.

    4. I think I'll take @TeachingGEnerationText advice and get a job, stop smoking, and get an education so that I can get a phone :)

      OK Lisa...tell me more. So your phone that you bought you don't use as a cell phone? Basically a small tablet? When I was looking I could not find a smartphone that would come without a data package, and any phone package that came with it or that I could buy separately I simply can not afford. But getting one for $50 and handing it over to my kids is intriguing...

      I seriously spent a lot of time shopping phones and plans. Yes I did find some "for nearly free," but just can't afford the contract.

    5. @Paul,
      Here is the phone I got

      I love it. I didn't purchase a plan. I was given two months of free service.

      You bring up a great point though. How would it work if we had phones without data plans...for example it's a phone with an expired contract and the owner wants to donate it.

      Could it be used on a school's wireless even though there is not data plan? Hmmm...I don't know.

      Being as tech savvy as you are I bet you could figure this one out. I will investigate too. We could be on to something ;)

    6. Just found this article from someone who is going with the WiFi only phone...

  2. Yes, cost is an issue.

    However, in Canada we pay a lot of taxes so that our schools can buy what they need (not getting into how the ed system gets short changed by government).

    Why would a device like a phone not be issued to the student like any other resource?

  3. As much as I explore tech. integration in schools (I teach a digital storytelling/media class in Louisville, KY), I can't get myself to embrace phones in school. Should we teach students productive ways to use their phones and also lead them to apps that might be helpful? Sure. Should we allow students unfettered access to phones? Absolutely not. Multitasking can be problematic, over-reliance on gadgets, and the lack of ability to compose sustained, meaningful thought (through writing) on a tiny screen are some of my issues.

    I learn best when...I'm actively doing something, focused on one task at a time (no distractions).

    My favorite new ideas...came from a book titled Net Smart by Howard Rheingold.

    I know I understand something...when I can explain it in person or writing to someone else.

    When I need help...I do go to my phone for directions, recipes, etc.

    For me, it's more about the medium of the cell phone. I don't want to restrict access to networks, etc. I'd prefer more laptops and tablets that facilitate creation rather than consumption.

    Here are my latest thoughts about thoughtful tech. integration into daily life:

    1. ==Multitasking can be problematic, over-reliance on gadgets, and the lack of ability to compose sustained, meaningful thought (through writing) on a tiny screen are some of my issues.==

      This is the problem many adults have. They impose their issues on students.

      Additionally, while you learn best in the ways you describe, it's clear that many people are getting those SAME things from their mobile devices i.e. the book you speak of can be accessed on my phone, I can choose to focus when I have my phone and if I can't it would be helpful for educators to empower students with the ability to do so more effectively.

      ==For me, it's more about the medium of the cell phone. I don't want to restrict access to networks, etc. I'd prefer more laptops and tablets that facilitate creation rather than consumption.==
      Again, you are imposing what is best for you upon students. Many students prefer phones, but whatever it is they prefer, that should be for them to decide. Additionally, your belief that phones are not for creation, applies to you. Most of this blog was written on a cell phone. Things are changing.

      In short, adults need to stop imposing what is best for themselves onto their students. They also need to go check out classes and schools where this has been introduced and is working supremely before making assumptions about what works and what doesn't work well.

    2. If you want to call them "my issues" fine. I'm simply not in the camp that constant mobile device use is good for students or society.
      I cringe when I think about the Google Glasses development. Just because technology is developed, doesn't mean we should adopt it, nor does it mean that students should use it.
      Students preferring to use phones is hardly justification for them as educational tools. If students want to peck away at a tiny screen or keyboard to "create" then as an educator, I'll tell them, sure you can do certain things on a phone, but you're going to be wasting your time and straining your eyes trying to write and revise, edit, and create substantial work.
      I'm open to visiting a teacher who employs phones constructively in class. From what I've read, it's mostly gimmicks that just furthers our collective addiction to connectivity.

  4. Phones are not the only way to achieve this. For students who cannot afford a monthly cell phone plan, what about an iPod touch? These devices are able to access the internet and perform almost any task a phone can. While iPod Touch's are still pricey, they are much cheaper than a monthly phone plan. And if schools are serious about allowing personal technology into the classroom, they should have a way to provide devices to those who cannot afford their own.

    Most students are already using cell phones outside of school to connect with others and conduct on the spot research. Telling them they cannot use this tool in the classroom, when adults obviously recognize its importance, is incredibly backwards. We should be encouraging students to use the devices they are comfortable with and already have. The reason these devices have not made it into more classrooms is that those who make the decisions are afraid of them or don't understand them. The older generation needs to start embracing the younger generation and encourage them to learn through whatever method they feel fit.