« Book Review: Assembly Required (Lezotte, McKee) | Main | Do you want me to draw you a picture? »

From Mad Magazine to Facebook - What Have We Learned?

| 11 Comments

I believe all schools should allow students access to all forms of technology and their educationally beneficial applications.

To allow anything less is an inexcusable ignoring of the most valuable educational tools available to us, a lazy way of avoiding the inevitable, and an irresponsible dodging of a very real public safety issue.

I realize that any discussion regarding students being given access to the full range of technologies and their applications quickly becomes a mixture of issues which are as difficult to resolve as they are easy to cause offense to many. Few can agree on common definitions of "age-appropriate"; "freedom of speech"; "in-loco-parentis"; "censorship", "offensive web sites", or "inappropriate material". The problem is that while we argue these social, ethical, political, and legal points, technology marches on, and we fall further and further behind our students.

We cannot allow education in general or ourselves in particular to become antiquated.

Far too often, the very mention of allowing students the in-school use of cell phones, access to email, access to social networks, or the freedom to surf the internet as part of their learning process is immediately met with either a deafening silence of disapproval or a chorus of righteous objections, concern for the safety of our children, or - my favorite - a vaguely mumbled argument that sounds like "butwecannotcontrolitandmightlosecontrolofitandwhoknowswherethesekidsmaygowithit".

Bear in mind we are not discussing a new song here. The tune is the same, only the lyrics have changed. It seems schools have always taken issue with any perceived threat to the safekeeping of social norms - from banning certain books and materials to questioning the benefits of certain technology.

When I was twelve years old there was a magazine that seemed to find particular disfavor with the teachers and administrators of my school. Mad Magazine. Wow! If you dared to take a copy to school, everyone was warned of dire consequences. Yet, you know where I saw my first Mad Magazine? Mrs. Miller's 5th grade class. Yep, at school. Something about it being off-limits made it seem all the more enjoyable and subversive when I actually got my hands on it. Of course, after reading it, singing the parodies, and looking for the magically transformed picture after folding the back cover until the arrows met, imagine my disappointment at finding nothing the least bit evil, libelous, or sexually inappropriate. Maybe Mad Magazine didn't have any practical educational use, but it, like the millions of impressionable young minds that were exposed to it, has managed to survive to this day.

Then there's the calculator and that little ol' company right up the highway from my school: Texas Instruments. We all knew that the first handheld, cheap calculators were created by mad scientists out to destroy the math abilities and reasoning skills of every school-aged child. Seven times eight was always my downfall. But now, all one had to do was push the right buttons in the right order and there was the answer! Fifty Six! Right there on the screen..."56"...Wow! Could anything greater EVER be invented?

Oh, but we educators fought that battle didn't we? Math groups were divided over this issue (pun intended). Great scholarly debates were held. Many argued that calculators were clearly a form of technology that had no place in the classroom.

We all know how that argument has been resolved.

At a recent district staff meeting, an assistant principal spoke to this issue. He started off with a large PowerPoint screen shot of an empty hallway on his campus. He told us it was not really just a hallway, but actually a Time Warp. After some laughter from the audience, he explained that just before they entered the hallway, his students lived in a world full of the latest cutting edge technologies and applications. From iPhones, iPods, and PDAs, to cellphones and laptops...From avatars in Second Life, to real friends in MySpace and Facebook...Before entering the hall, students were socially networking around the world, conducting immediate personal research on issues they were curious about (googling anything from movie times to how to load a new graphic card on their motherboard).

This astute assistant principal went on to point out a very odd thing happened as students entered and made their way to the classrooms at the end of the hall. A transformation took place and when the students emerged on the opposite end of the hall, all their technology had been turned off, pocketed, zippered, hidden, discounted, or flat-out become prohibited. Education had time-warped back to circa 1950's-1960's-1970's formats of standup, teacher-led lectures, accompanied by worksheets and textbooks.

Again: We cannot allow education in general or ourselves in particular to become antiquated. What does it tell us when kids cannot wait to leave school in order re-turn-on, re-boot, and once again engage in meaningful (to them) real-world learning.

Recently our District Instructional Technologists conducted a series of "Imagineering Sessions" in which they sat down and talked with students about perceptions of technology and where our district could/should go with it. As part of each session the students were given video cameras and asked to walk around and tape mini-interviews. The result is a six minute video which you might find interesting. It's found on YouTube at BISD What If...

Really, my argument isn't whether we should allow access or not. Our students already have access. Whether at home, a friend's house, the public library, Kinkos, or an internet cafe, don't think for a minute that we are controlling what students have access to. Students are already ahead of us on most technology. No, my true argument is this: to continue to fight against students having access is pointless. Realistically our alternative should be to teach responsible, safe use of the technologies and their applications as they apply to gaining new knowledge, exploring new ideas, playing with concepts, and building the future.

Students are allowed to have cell phones on my campus. A few weeks ago I came across a website that allows phones to be used to collect answers to polls, surveys, quizzes, etc. It struck me as a great tool for teachers to use in the classroom. I informally polled my staff on the issue of allowing cell phones to actually be used in class for something of this nature. They were mixed in their responses. I focused on those not in favor of the idea. As I asked them for more input, I heard three basic types of responses: 1) They were afraid of losing control (if we let them use the phones for this, how will we keep control over texting or personal calls?); 2) some were concerned that not all students have equal access; and 3) some staff are unfamiliar with the technology and therefore uncomfortable with students using it (yes, there are teachers who don't know how to use text messaging).

Allow me to address these responses in the reverse order of the actual numbers of staff expressing them:

3) Regarding the staff's familiarity with technology: It is part of our district's culture that a minimal level of technological competency is a standard expectaton. Our superintendent had the district adopt a requirement that all staff must demostrate competencies in eight areas of computer/technology use. Based on a requirement of SBEC for all beginning teachers, our district requires ALL staff members to either pass a competency test or take a three hour course in eight designated competencies. With that said, we must acknowledge that we cannot become familiar - or comfortable - using all the technologies that are available simply because there aren't enough hours in the day. I certainly would never expect a staff to be competent with every application available. Nor should they be afraid of it. However, they should be competent enough with current technology to be able to evaluate new programs and determine if they appear to be "safe" or not. The minimum expectation for any staff member should be for them to at least know how to refer a new application or website to a higher authority for further evaluation before allowing students to use/access it.

2) Regarding equal access: I have been taking student surveys on Survey Monkey for a long time. I am now planning to set up future surveys to include a choice of students responding either on-line or through a text message format. They may not have equal access to a private cell phone or laptop, but with wifi, one COW, three labs, and computers in every classroom, I can assure them equal access. I believe all schools should make equal access a priority.

And finally,

1) Loss of control in the classroom: Ah! Here's the real issue I think.

For some educators their real underlying bias against allowing access is a loss of control. Visions of students ignoring lessons while text messaging, meeting on MySpace instead of conducting the assigned research in the library, or heading straight to banned websites at every opportunity are greatly distorted misconceptions rather than demonstrated truths.

Obviously, texting friends and making/receiving personal calls during class time cannot be allowed. But why shouldn't the phone be allowed for legitimate educational use? I watched an excellent lesson in an Algebra 2 class in which the teacher had students use the keypads on their cell phones to figure out relationships between the numbers and letters. I can think of a multitude of lessons in which a cell phone would be used as an instructional tool. How about excellent real-time research that could be conducted by allowing students to call and talk to different entities to gather information. Do you think a 7th grade class could plan and implement a field trip all on their own using the internet and their cellphones to make all the arrangements? Not only do I believe it, I believe it could be done at much lower grade levels as well.

Allowing access to all the technologies does not mean totally unrestricted access. As much as I wish it did, my ticket to see my favorite artist in concert only allows me access to the floor and my seat. It's not a back stage pass that allows me to mingle with the artists. There is still a tremendous amount of control a school can exercise over access and use without causing a "chill effect" or diminishing the effectiveness of the technology and the applications themselves.

I make my argument in favor of access in this article. I don't have room left to discuss the next step: actual implementation. But rest assured that I acknowledge the need for everything from filters, differentiated levels of software/site admission, the physical layout of computer labs, strong parental involvement, and appropriate safeguards in place to protect all students.

Boil it down and my entire argument for giving students access to all technologies is based on three beliefs:

1) Knowing that students have access - and it is not going away, we should make that access work for everyone's benefit. We must allow access to technologies and their applications at school. Whether at school or elsewhere, students will find access to current technologies and play / experiment / innovate with the full range of applications . We will never prevent students from using current technologies in ways that they find emotionally, socially, or yes, even educationally beneficial;

2) Knowing the benefits, we should do all we can to promote our student's abilities to use the exisiting (and future) technologies and applications to help reach their fullest potentials; and

3) Knowing the dangers, we should be teaching safe protocols and net etiquette to our students so they don't inadvertently make the errors that place them at jeopardy socially, financially, emotionally, and even physically.

Technology is here to stay. And guess what? There's only going to be more and more of it coming faster and faster. Historically, we know we will eventually lose any battle against its full acceptance and incorporation into our classrooms, so why not get on board now and become a facilitator rather than an opponent?

Greg Farr

11 Comments

Bravo!

I had a first grade teacher that was so concerned about the students being able to use the computers in the lab. She would log each of them on and then load the website for them. 22 times! The last student had very little time to do the activity. She couldn't let go of the control she had over the kids. 19 of the 22 kids knew how to boot the computer and find the website. You hit the nail on the head. For many teachers it is a control issue.

I look forward to your next post on implementation!

I'm forwarding this post to people around my district.

In another forum, I've been talking to people who maintain that Adults using laptops in university classes are rude because they might be doing something not directly related to the course. One was a professor who said if someone needed a laptop due to an LD they could use an alpha smart.

I was blown away by the attitude - not to mention that in my case an alpha smart will not work because the screen contrast is difficult for me to see.

Greg, I enjoyed the video. It looks like some responses were scripted (e.g., the two girls that looked like they were reading from a paper).Did the students write their own responses, did the students who did the filming write them, or were they written by adults? Just wondering...

Thank you for writing this. As we look to revise some policies in our district, I have been advocating the same things you do.I've been told that my beliefs reflect a small minority in education. I will be sharing your post, as well as the video. Thank you!!!

I love the Mad Magazine analogy. I read that thing cover to cover when I was in junior high. My teachers and parents trashed it which only made me want to read more! Thanks for bringing back some fond memories.

I could not agree more that we need to bring in as much technology as possible into our schools. Most students are ready and able to handle the responsibility, and they would be excited for the opportunity.

However, I don't think we will convince the critics and the skeptics until we educators can prove that technology is more than a cool way to connect people and find information. We need to prove that it can truly increase student achievement in reading, writing, math, science, foreign language, etc.


Dave: Thank you! You raise an outstanding point that I wish I had included. We MUST show Value Added to the skeptics. Until we demonstrate with hard data that the use of technology has a positive, measureable impact on student achievement, we won't gain much ground.

Scott,

None of the responses were scripted. We did give them sentence stubs to complete, such as, "I wish my teachers would..." or "What if every student had..." Those girls were actually students at Greg's school, by the way. We did half-day student summits at 4 high schools and 2 middle schools.

I would like to view the video, but I am a school librarian and not permitted to access YouTube from school.

Pat's comment reminds me:

I would like to put out a call for interesting stories, anecdotes, or quick examples of ways technology use is blocked, thwarted, or discouraged in schools. Depending on response, I'd like to write a post based on the stories. All privacy rights guaranteed!

Please email responses to:

[email protected]

Greg -
You and I are definitely thinking along the same lines. My February 5 LeaderTalk post focused on the topic of measuring the impact of new technology on student achievement. I have yet to come across any data to substantiate that technology is helping students learn. I don't come across too many blog posts on this topic, either.

Dave,

I've come across quite a bit of research that shows that technology helps students learn, but not in a way that is any significant improvement over traditional tools in most cases. However, I would say that there are a couple of things to consider. The first would be the type of instruction being applied. Most of the technology studies that I find to date deal with low-level applications (A few do deal with e-learning, simulations, gaming, etc. at a higher level.). They focus on technology as a mere "paper substitute." They do not examine transformative applications of technology, and are, in my mind, more of a reflection of the ineffectiveness of an unimaginative and limiting application and curriculum. Applications of technology that have not been a significant part of the research are those where the elementary student starts an online movement to help homeless families, where a high school student gains insight into history through conversations with another student on the other side of the globe, where middle school students engage an author in conversations through a blog-based book discussion, the students who see their own experiments carried out in a videoconference with space station astronauts, etc. What is the impact of these types of activities? Technology applied in the same ways as textbooks or notebook paper has the same limitations as those mediums, and that is where most of the research to date has focused.

A big challenge, I feel, lies in revamping the assessment system so that it moves beyond the most basic of skills to the types of higher-order applications that tomorrow's technologies will afford. This will create a needed push to encourage many schools/educators to take advantage of the unique opportunities for learning that technology can provide. Ramp up the types of applications of technology and the expectations for teacher and student use. We can't blame the machines when we are only utilizing a tiny fraction of their capabilities, and we can't continue to assess students or technology exclusively using a system that is about 3 decades beyond relevance.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

  • Randy Rodgers: Dave, I've come across quite a bit of research that read more
  • Dave Sherman: Greg - You and I are definitely thinking along the read more
  • Greg: Pat's comment reminds me: I would like to put out read more
  • Pat Stein: I would like to view the video, but I am read more
  • Randy Rodgers: Scott, None of the responses were scripted. We did give read more

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

#ccko9
#eci831
#ic3s21
#passiondriven
1:1
1:1 laptops
21st century
21st Century
21st Century Schools
21st Century Skills
21st Century skills
Abraham Lincoln
Accountability
accountabilty
adifference
administrator
Adolescent Literacy Panel
advice
aldonza
aleccouros
Alfie Kohn
Angela Maiers
aptitude
Arthur Benjamin
Artists
Arts
ASCD
Assessment
astronaut
Author
avatar
basketball
Beyond Discipline
Blog
blogging
blogs
boss
calculus
Capacity
Career and College Readiness
Carnegie Foundation
CEDS
Cell Phones
Challenge
Change
change
Charleston Children's Museum
Chris Anderson
CIES
class blogs
Clay Shirky
College
Colonel Eileen Collins
commenting
commitment
communication
community
Community
comparative
compassion
compensation
Comprehension
Comprhension
computers in the classroom
Constructivism
cookie
Copyright_infringement
Copyright_laws
Council of Conscience
creativity
Creativity
Creativity Conversation
Creativity Index
Cultivate
Dan Pink
death valley
Decision making
dennisar
Derailed
Disruptive Innovation
Divergent
dkuropatwa
Don Quixote
Dr. Jeff
Dr. Jeff Goldstein
Drive
dulcinea
Education
education
Education in the United States
educational change
Educational Leadership
educational leadership
educational technology leadership
Educators
effectiveness
Element
empathy
Enactivism
energy savings
Engage
Engineering
engineering
evaluation
evernote
evsc
Facebook
failure
Feedback
Festival
Film festival
firing
formative and summative assessments
Frank Smith
friendship
Future
Garr Reynolds
georgesiemens
Global
Golden Rule
Grades
green technology
heart
heart of a teacher
High school
high school
Higher Education
Higher Order Thinking Skills
hire
history
HOME
Home School Partnership
Homework
hospitals
humility
I Notice
Ian Jukes
Ideas
Identity crisis
imagination
Improvement
improvement
Indexing
influence
innovation
Innovation
innovation3
innovation3 llc
inspiration
instructional leadership
Interests
international
International Society for Technology in Education
interview
ipad
ISTE
Jayson Richardson
job
Job Readiness
John Seely Brown
K through 12
K-8
Karen Armstrong
karl fisch
kellychristopherson
Kent
leaderhhip coaching
leadershiop
Leadership
leadership
leadership development
leadership management influence
Leadership Resources
lean
Learning
learning
Learning 21st Century
legislation
Lifelong learning
Literacy
Literacy and Learning
Love
Man of La Mancha
management
math
math education
mathematics
Mathematics
mboe
Media literacy
medicine
mentoring
merit pay
mguhlin
Michael Watkins
Minds on Fire
moodle
Motivation
Movies
Multiple choice
NAESP
NASA
national educational technology plan
National Governors Association
NCESSE
Neil Rochelle
netbooks
NETS-A
Norma Rae
Nurture
Obama
one to one
online
online learning
Online Software
Originality
osu
Paradoxical Commandments
Parent Invovlement
Parent Partnership
passion
Passion Driven Classroom
Passion Education
Passion Leadership
performance
pete reilly
peter o'toole
Peter Senge
plagiarism
pln
PLN
plurk
Positive feedback
power
preconceptions
President Kennedy
principal
Principal
principal preparation
priorities
probability
Problem Solving
productivity
Professional development
publishing
read/write web
Reading
Reading Next
Reflection
reform
religion
reorganization
research
saving IT dollars
Schedules
school leadership
School Reform
schooling
Science
science
Scott McCloud
Scott McLeod
Second Life
self management
Seth Godin
Shall We Dance?
Shanghai
SIF
sir ken robinson
Sir Ken Robinson
SLC
Social Media
Social Networking
sophia loren
Standardized test
statistics
STEM
stephaniepacemarshall
stephendownes
strategy leadership
student achievement
student led conferences
suffering
summer
Switzerland
systemic change
teacher
Teacher
Teacher Professional Development
teachers
Teachers College Columbia University
teaching
Technology
technology
technology change
Technology integration
technology research
TED
TED Prize
textbooks
The First 90 Days
thin client
Thinking
Thomas Dewey
Tim Irwin
time management
Time To Act
transformation
transformative change
transitions
Tribes-We Need You To Lead Us
twitter
Twitter
Uniqueness
United States
University
University of Alabama-Birmingham
University of Kentucky
vacation
Value
vision
Vision
Wagner
walkthroughs
Web 2.0
Web Filtering
Webinar
weighting
Whole New Mind
wisdom
Wordle
workforce
World Read Aloud Day
Young People