I was directed to a blog post today by Larry Ferlazzo through a tweet:
I was intrigued by the fact that Larry was not a supporter (as most of my Twitter PLN members are) of cell phone use in the classroom. So, I visited Scott McLeod’s post to read his comment. Scott had posted about a district that had changed its mind about installing a device in its schools that would jam cell phone reception. Larry had commented about building relationships with students to help enforce school policies. He also commented about why he agrees with his district’s ban on cell phones in school.
It was refreshing to hear the opinion of someone who works in an inner city district who deals with the same kinds of issues I do. I responded:
The idea of purchasing a device to jam cell phone reception was a ridiculous idea in the first place. We all know that authoritarian measures like this rarely work in schools. As Larry stated, building relationships and explaining policies while allowing student input is much more effective. It was refreshing to hear the perspective of another inner city teacher. In my K-6 school students begin bringing cell phones to school as early as 2nd or 3rd grade. While I understand why–no one is home when they leave for school, no one is home when they get home, and the walk to and from school is not always safe–there is no reason for a student to have their cell phone ON during the school day. If someone needs to call them, they can call the main office.
I understand the possibilities that cell phones in the classroom can have–but what kinds of cell phones? 100% of my students qualify for free/reduced lunch. Their phones are on pre-paid plans. Most of them just call or text or play music, with a few having camera functions. If they were to use the phone to text an answer to the teacher–who is paying the texting plan? What if a student’s phone is cut off because their minutes are used up?
Larry also brings up a good point about bullying & harrassment. Unfortunately, our school climate is not a friendly one most of the time. Students threaten each other verbally in front of teachers on a daily basis–imagine if they could do it through a cell phone?! While I believe that using cell phones in the classroom hold great possibilities for authentic learning, that does not mean that they are the right tool for everyone. Too many times we adopt new tools because everyone else is using them or says their great. We should be making educated choices about which tools are right for our students and our schools. Cell phones (at least for now) are not that tool for my school, and I’m sure for many schools in the Philadelphia public school district.
Mary Beth (aka mbteach)
While we may be in the minority in the world of edtech, we are also in the majority when it comes to real life situations. There are 16,000 teachers in the School District of Philadelphia and over 270 schools. While we try our darndest to be innovators (and succeed!) not all tools are made for all environments. That is not to say that using cell phones as a tool in the classroom in Philadelphia public schools is out of the question, but for many it is not practical.
Please let me know your thoughts/reactions (even if you disagree!)