This is what we are dealing with

Last week, the CBC asked for viewer feedback on the recent ban of Toronto school boards on cellphones. I weighed with this comment:

I’m not surprised by these comments. Most parents and educators are stuck in an old model of education where the teacher is in full control of the learning and disruption is a bad thing.

Cellphones have the potential of computers. Good and bad. Good teachers understand how to use technology for learning. The cellphone is already being used in powerful learning ways. I understand most readers think of them as disruptive and in no way educational. A desktop computer is no different.

In addition to the potential for learning, the recent events in Virginia will likely prompt increased use.

To those that talk about potential of cheating….I would hope that good teachers are not spending most of their time having kids answer questions that require rote answers. Learning needs to go deeper than that.

Why are we asking kids to learn the provincial capitals when Google gives you that answer in less than 1 second? I’m not saying knowledge isn’t important but the emphasis on assessing and evaluating students shouldn’t be here. It should be on a higher order thinking and performance that cannot be shared by a simple text message.

My ideal world has each student with a laptop, cellphone, ipod and whatever they need.

How ’bout you go to work tomorrow without these tools?

If you read the majority of the 52 comments you’ll see parents, teachers and students opinions clearly support the ban. In fact, I can’t find one advocating the use of cellphones in the classroom. I was a bit shocked by this and marveled at how the conversation could only speak of the use of cellphones under the traditional educational environment.  The possibility of a reformed educational system is a best just talk and at worst not even in the radar.  As my own school division contemplates budget cuts, I worry about the efforts to maintain status quo as being something to strive for. Yikes!

The possibility that student would voluntarily bring to class a computing device, be it a cellphone, laptop, ipod or handheld that could be leveraged for learning is just not being seen largely because it really involves a shift of power and control. We’re not close to being ready for that.  I know you already knew that, but I was just brought back to reality again.

[tags]cellphones, ban, Toronto, CBC, shareski[/tags]

  • Dean,

    I work for the other school board in Toronto (Toronto Catholic District School Board 80,000+ students) and although we haven’t made that cell phone ban yet there is pressure from Teacher Unions, Administrator Associations etc. to do this.

    Ban and Block is the traditional response to not understanding, where as I believe that we should Educate, Educate, Educate. Yet, the more I work with educators in the classroom, the more I realize that my view is a very small minority than what I find in my social network.

    Call me on skype “qdsouza” if you want an earful.

  • For example see TSU – President Requests Cell Phone Policy:

  • Dean,

    I, too, support the use of computing devices in the classroom. I’m often challenged on examples of effective use of cell phones. Can you point to some examples of effective lessons involving cell phones? I’ve seen the example in the “Paying Attention” video. Do you have others?


  • Kurt,

    I certainly can’t speak to any personal examples. Here are a few links:

    Wes Fryer is currently developing a workshop on the use of cellphones:

    For me, this is one great example of not coming to the discussion with all the answers or a clear plan of attack. Typically, in education we want to have all these in place before we begin an implementation. I think we need to be more exploratory in our use of cellphones, find small ways to use them at first and work at using them as one more tool in our arsenal. There are certainly occasions when they aren’t appropriate as with any tool but we can’t ignore them.

  • I have a few ideas myself, mostly to reuse cellphones for educational purposes which depend on the features available in phones. We just need to think of a few Teaching Hacks by looking at what the tool can do. 5 minutes of brainstorming =

    Use photo feature to capture two blackboards full of writing that students were supposed to copy down after 100 minutes of class time by a history teacher. (Some old resentment here)

    Capture video of science experiments for labs and share the results with the teacher to annotate projects or use as part of the process.

    Students record notes from their classes by using the voicemail features – or cell to podcast web tools.

    Use RMinder to blast voice and text reminders to students based on assignments and due dates of different events. Can even match to events in outlook, google cal, ical and more.

    Anyone else ready to tango on this??

  • Okay Dean – I just can’t help myself on this topic.

    My question is – is it cell phones that facilitate cheating or is that way we have designed our evaluations?

  • Why not enlist our studnents to help us think about the most effective ways to use cell phones in class. Let them use their cell phones and social network sites to find out how other students are using cell phones in class. Ask them to write a written response to this question. These responses could be put on a wiki for further collaboration.

  • See this Article:

    What Can You Learn from a Cell Phone? Almost Anything! by Marc Pensky

    Do you want more let’s do this… the next time someone tells you to get rid of cellphones – let’s have a response!

  • I’m a bit late to comment on this article, but yes Education is a great big dinosaur! Perhaps when this generation of cell-phone using kids become teachers themselves things will begin to change… the comments here have been great to get ideas from. I gathered some positive ideas about policy on mobiles in schools together in a paper late last year – its hosted at Ok, keep up the mobile learning postings!