Nice one TDSB

Warning: This post was written in about 10 minutes with a fair bit of emotion. While I’m hoping for clarity, I’m there’s no guarantee.
: The story I linked to was from 2007. Someone from the Toronto District School Board was not able to confirm if indeed this policy is now in place.  However, I’ll not retract the post as the ideas and arguments remain valid in my opinion. This is not meant so much to attack a particular school district but simply to address the larger issue of cell phone banning that exists in many jurisdictions.

These are the types of decisions that continue to promote the “us vs. them” mentality.  What incites me is the reason they give for banning cell phones:

There’s the disruptive nature of the phone ringing or vibrating during class.

Students can text message each other and send answers about exams, a high tech way to cheat.

They can also access the Internet over the phones, making it too easy to surf or find answers they’re supposed to know while class is in session.

Phones can also act as MP3 players, another interruption.

And the built-in camera capabilities in them have been used by some students to post embarrassing and harassing videos to sites like YouTube.

Teachers are enthused.

Disruptive? That might be a good thing. But even if we don’t view the term disruptive in a positive sense, can we not involve students in developing policies that everyone agrees upon? In my experience, anytime students are given the opportunity to develop rules, it saves everyone a great deal of trouble in enforcing them.

Students can text message and cheat? Read this.

They can access the Internet over their phones. That’s a bad thing? Potentially but again, consider that if we value the idea of computers, kids are now bringing one with them to class, less cost on the taxpayer and the potential for learning is pretty great. We need teachers who understand the power and potential of having the sum of human knowledge in their hands. That’s an assest, not necessarily a liability.

Phones can act as MP3 players. Good. Heard of podcasts? Even if kids are listening to music while they work, why is that always bad? Perhaps this could be addresses with students as well.

Built in cameras? Could they use them for something like this?

Teachers are enthused? Why? I’d be infuriated.

I’m not suggesting the cellphones don’t cause problems. So do laptops, pencils and power saws in shop class. But until we realize the potential and involve students in developing responsible use policies, this lame approach will continue to be used in an effort to control things. Good luck with that.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Scott McLeod

You should have seen these kids

I must say I was brimming with pride during the Tlt Summit. Our division presented 10 of the 60 non-commercial sessions. As one of 28 school divisions in our province and one of the smaller ones, I think this says something. I don’t apologize for bragging about the people I work with.

Because of a last minute cancellation I was asked to do an additional session. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to suggest the conveners invite Carla Dolman to do a session on her use of cellphones in the classroom. Maybe my smartest decision of the year. Carla agreed and decided to bring with her a half a dozen kids to help her. You should have seen these kids.

I wished I’d have capture it. Carla began briefly by outlining the thoughts behind the experiment to use cellphones. After about 15 minutes she paused and asked for questions. The audience of about 75 immediately began asking the students questions. “Did it change your learning? Were you tempted to use it to text or call in off task ways? Was it just a novelty? How did students who didn’t have a cellphone feel? Are you still using it for learning?” Hard, challenging, important questions. These 13 and 14 year olds handled them with a poise and sophistication that would make any teacher or parent proud. I sat back with awe and pride as they took turns, not by design, but simply as polished presenters would in responding to questions and concerns. Wow. Then Carla allowed them to share their formal presentation where they discussed the details of their learning as well as educated the audience about the language they communicate with everyday. Finally they had everyone take out their phones and begin showing them how to use bluetooth and soon they had everyone buzzing with learning as they facilitated a hands on learning experience.

While the story about cellphones is a great one itself, watching students present ideas to a real audience about something they were engaged with was another Tlt highlight. They blew me away.

Now I’m thinking about how I might get them to share their story with more people in yet another live, interactive setting. I feel a ustream presentation coming.