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Is this ringing in my pants bothering you?

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Today I had to tell one my male students that it was a bit awkward that his hands repeatedly fidget with something in his pocket below the desk. If you're now horrified (because I am, in fact, a high school teacher), don't worry, it's just a cell phone.

However, to many educators, the cell phone is the bane of our professional existence. My school has a no cell phone policy that is completely ignored by students and heavily debated by faculty. These devices are everywhere, either hanging out of the pockets of their low-slung jeans or glued between their ear and their shoulder.

In the midst of a heated discussion on cell phone confiscation at a faculty meeting, where a prize was suggested for the teacher with the highest acquistion, at least one phone went off. We collectively looked around the room for the interruption, knowing it could very well have been our own.

To make matters much worse, my neighboring teacher has the audacity to implement a cell-phone-based project. Around 70 [GASP!] students will be given iPhones for the next month to use DURING THE SCHOOL DAY [TISK-TISK]. A nutrition project funded by Cornell, the students will be tracking their meals and relaying information. I have no other choice [HUFF] than to never speak to this infidel colleague again.

I return to my class and find the need for a few extra stopwatches for a small group activity. I tried hitting up the PE dept. with no luck. Just as I was about to give up, a few students pulled out their cell phones - slowly, cautiously - as if offering a wild animal a scrap of meat to deter the attack. As it turns out, their cell phones each had a stopwatch feature built in. I was suddenly in possession of more than I would possibly require to run the activity, and many helpful students wanting to volunteer.

It's not easy for me to admit that Cornell University researchers apparently know a bit more than me about technology. [SNIFF] It turns out these little devices are useful. That must be why we use them so much. Now I have to make amends with my neighbor, maybe I'll send her a text.

10 Comments

Nice blog!

Do you have any more information on this study Cornell is doing? A link perhaps? I'd like to read more about it.

You have captured the dynamic around cell phones perfectly. As difficult as the conversations are about this issue (for good reason), I think there are few things that distance us more from our students and make school feel so irrelevant to them than forcing them to operate in an artificial way without good cause. Your earlier post about paper shows this as well. Do we want to be throwing our shoulders against the push of progress (fruitlessly), or do we want to be out in front helping to lead it (by modeling how to use technology well, for worthwhile purposes?)

I think the goal should be to find the appropriate balance with the use of cell phones. A zero tolerance policy is not the answer, nor is a blind eye. Setting the rules and providing consistent and clear enforcement is important for kids at any age.

Lets face it, disruptive technologies are here to stay.. the WalkMan, smart calculators (which changed higher math education entirely), the iPod, and even the computer.... We can ban them from the classroom or find a way to use them to make education more pertinent to the individual student... and get with the times.

For more information about the Cornell nutrition project, here is my neighboring teacher's web page...
http://www.canastotacsd.org/education/staff/staff.php?sectionid=370

Sweet. Thanks Katie!

I fully understand the impulse to just take the danged things away. I have maintained possession of my son's cell phone for long periods of time (months, sometimes), before our carrier provided (for a small charge) an online parental control. I can lock that thing down in an instant if need be.

But the truth of the matter is that confiscation was a huge inconvenience TO ME! The reason to a equip a kid with portable electronics is to be able to keep tabs on them (we didn't go so far as GPS, however, beyond my budget). And--to ensure that they carry it, it's a good idea to keep enough stuff enabled to keep it interesting and useful to them (who wants to carry a phone that you can only use to talk to your mom?)

What a wonderful world. When I was in junior high school, we had to learn the manual alphabet or be good at passing notes to communicate with each other. Nowadays, kids can just text each other. But, I fully believe we are just touching the edge of the ways in which technologies and communication are going to help to reinvent education--and many other things as well.

We gotta make up our minds to lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Katie -- You are *flying* !! My Congratulations - your witty and entertaining posts are beautiful pieces that bridge so many gaps. Writing like this could do more for raising awareness and calling truces in the ed tech wars than any great theoretical policy document would, I think -- just my 0.02 Euros. IEG

"A medication, medicines or drug is any substance or combination of substances which may be used in or administered to human beings or animals with a view to treating or preventing disease or to making a medical diagnosis. Commercial medications are produced by pharmaceutical companies and are often patented. Copies of former patented drugs are called generic drugs."

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Arizona Drug Rehab Centers and Programs-Arizona Drug Rehab Centers and Programs

"A medication, medicines or drug is any substance or combination of substances which may be used in or administered to human beings or animals with a view to treating or preventing disease or to making a medical diagnosis. Commercial medications are produced by pharmaceutical companies and are often patented. Copies of former patented drugs are called generic drugs."

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Dx
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Arizona Drug Rehab Centers and Programs-Arizona Drug Rehab Centers and Programs

I have been using a site called Poll Everywhere (http://www.polleverywhere.com/) for formative assessments and review. The enthusiasm this creates is phenomenal. I regularly have >60% engagement, try to get that with hand raising! If you include students that are discussing with their tech enabled friends the response rate is around 90-95%. The key is to have strict ground rules.

The main issue is the fact that they are "forbidden", students will try to stretch any rule we give them. With responsible use of technology in the classroom, this forbidden fruit will be less tempting to them. Additionally, their future will be much more based on the ability to work with technology and as educators we owe it to our students to teach them appropriate usage.

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