(The following is a reflection paper from my Admin. Technology class. Enjoy…)
Schools that choose to ban cell phone usage during the school day are fighting a losing battle. Oftentimes, these bans are set in place for noble purposes including preventing the distractions associated with texting, listening to music, and browsing the internet during class. Our expectation is if we ban the use of these technologies and confiscate them when they are visible during the school day, then students will focus more on their classwork. The reality of the situation is that by banning and denying our students of these technologies, we are only cultivating an often-unseen (though known) defiance of our rules. Instead of using their creativity to be engaged in our lessons, they are using their creativity to discover new ways of hiding their I-Pods, cell phones, and various other gadgets, perpetuating the very behavior we are trying to prevent. Rather than continuing to wage a war against the increasing numbers and types of technology, perhaps we should move in the direction of incorporating them into our lessons.
Many specialists in the field of instructional technology also support the premise that enlisting the help of new technologies is the future of education. Kolb (2011) listed several advantages to working them into the curriculum: they save class time, they save districts money, students love them, they facilitate learning at one’s own time and pace, they prepare students for 21st century jobs, students can learn mobile etiquette, and they empower students with visual or hearing impairments. Each of these advantages has its own strong supporting arguments, but the overriding theme is that by incorporating cell phone usage, we would be making education more relevant and accessible to our students while preparing them for technology usage in their adult lives. We have an incredible wealth of information available to us every day in an instant through internet connectivity, and most adult workers are more connected than ever. We should be preparing our students to use these resources that are available to them to model appropriate technology usage for their professional lives.
It is to meet these purposes that Kolb (2011) suggested several learning activities to incorporate cell phones into a curriculum. Some of the activities like mobile geotagging and digital organization strategies (p. 41) seem fairly advanced for a teacher who may be in the foundation stages of considering incorporating these methods. But seemingly more simplified activities like podcasting, oral recordings, oral quizzes, and the classroom response systems (p. 41-43) would serve as a good starting point. Trying to implement a myriad of activities in one year, and possibly doing a poor job of seamlessly incorporating them into the classroom curriculum, could result in chaos. However, focusing on one activity and putting time and effort into making it work well may produce better results and increase student excitement.
In my own classroom this year, I have been making a concerted effort to incorporate more technology, and while my school’s policy on cell phones is strict, I have been considering ways to make them work in my lesson plans. I have found that battling cell phones is never-ending, and I am constantly telling students to put them away, turn them off, or put their bags on the floor (a common tactic for hiding texting). With our financial situation and the lack of prospects for additional computers in the future, I see many advantages to allowing cell phones, and I will admit there have been several occasions this year when I have allowed my students to access research documents online through their cell phones. Because of the cost-saving advantages and the potential for teaching students about appropriate internet usage, I plan to try at least one of Kolb’s activities in my class next year. I think her classroom response system (Kolb, 2011, p. 43) through polleverywhere.com would be a great, easy strategy to try.