Sunday, March 18, 2018

Why cell phones may not be the problem

The topic of technology and cell phones in the classroom is one that cycles through conversation circles quite frequently. A recent article sparking discussion is from The Washington Post about a company called Yondr. This company has created a “pouch” to store student cell phones through out the school day, so they can’t use them. (click technology to read the article) The main idea being that the cell phones provide a distraction to learning that is harming student growth.

The main thing that I feel is important when discussing technology and education is to identify what technology in a classroom truly means to educators. Classroom technology is “phraseology” that encompasses way too many things, and doesn’t easily morph with the continuous educational tech
advances. For example, when I started teaching a document camera was considered “technology,” and using a Power Point presentation meant you were the “techy” teacher. But neither of those things are bringing technology into the classroom for student advancement. They might enhance a lesson, but true student growth doesn’t require a document camera.

So, for me, classroom technology is something that is required to do the job of a student. I connect this to the workplace. When we go to work, the necessary technology required to do our job is provided to us. Sure, we bring our own cell phones, but we’re encouraged to not have them out while we are working. It is also expected that we use the technology for work purposes and not for time wasting. It is understood that we are responsible for how we use the provided technology and that there are consequences for break those expectations.

This same mindset needs to be taken with our students. I’ve been fortunate to work in a 1-to-1 student to tech ratio in my current school. Each of my students has been given a Chromebook to use throughout the school year. Our district has invested in this opportunity for our students knowing that knowledgeable use of technology is an important skill for any and all career fields.

Teachers are encouraged to push the boundaries of normal by considering web-based textbooks and learning tools that can be interwoven in the classroom to broaden critical thinking and creativity. Since all of the students have the same device, we can create a level working environment. We spend time developing and defining what digital citizenship means, and we work with our kiddos to develope a list of acceptable use guidelines that steer them away from the dependence on cell phones and social media.

This doesn’t mean it’s just perfect at our school all the time. There are still issues, and kids push the boundaries, but the opportunities to do so are limited. We have worked to engage our students in a way that keeps them focused on the projects and lessons in the classroom environment and have provided technology separate from the phones in their pockets or back packs. Having a technology “bag” for phones is a fix for sure, but it doesn’t hold the school responsible for engaging the students in a way that prevents them from using their phones in an unproductive way. It gives teachers an out from working to enhance teaching styles that help students focus on the learning and less on Snapchat  and Instagram.

This cell phone issue is highlighting the need for a shift in education. Students need to be more engaged in their own learning and teachers need to work to build learning opportunities that connect with students in a far more interesting way than the traditional methods many are holding on to. Once the work environment shifts to a more dynamic, creative, and student driven style, the cell phone issue will go away. Until then, cell phone pouches only mask the true issue and keep learning stuck in old methodologies. So maybe we need to shift the conversation away from cell phones as the problem and focus more on how we can encourage are schools and teachers to be more engaging with the content that is delivered.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please head to my Facebook page and leave a comment, or use the comment section below.