Friday, November 16, 2012

My Goodness! There's a Cellphone in my classroom!!

Upon becoming a high school principal many years ago, I remember being deluged with a handbook of school rules and regulations for student behavior known as the Code of Conduct. It was a necessary document to establish expectations for student behavior and actions in a school community. There was a section on illegal use of electronics by students. It covered everything from tape players, CD players, to radar installation units to detect if your teacher was planning to give a lot of homework. But, somewhere in between was nestled the thought (15 years ago) that cellphones were a bad thing, as well. Naturally, it was a holdover from before the smartphone era when cellphones made phone calls and played awkward Atari-style games.

The archaic policy was created within a "19th Century-Factory Model" philosophy of education, where  instruction is delivered via an "assembly-line" mentality where teachers believed kids were learning from their voluminous and uninspiring lectures. By preventing them from having tools such as smartphones and tablets they reinforce the belief that kids should not be distracted from their lectures.

Unfortunately, the mindless policies that were created to "harness" student energy in the heyday of 19th Century learning models (that are still prevalent today), are frustrating and turning kids off from active learning in schools today. Smartphone technology encompasses the same applications as a desktop computer with the added benefit of 3G or 4G wireless capability, meaning access to the Internet, resources, primary document searches, and the use of social media sites such as iMessenger and Twitter.

If we learned anything from the last two Presidential elections it was that the person that can master the social media world for their message will be the winner. Young people know this, and schools need to defer to this understanding if they are focused on preparing children for a future that is unfolding before them. As Richard Parker stated in the New York Times today: "...younger voters make decisions differently. They are constantly informed, messaged and reinforced by their deluge of text and Twitter messages- all coming from their friends, families and co-workers- hundreds if not thousands of times a day." (Parker, 2012).

We need to take advantage of the learning tool called the "smartphone", and soon before others figure out that schools are unable to keep kids interested in learning.

1.    Parker, Richard. "Social and Anti-Social Media." New York Times, November 16, 2012. (accessed November 16, 2012).