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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cell Phones in Schools - My Experiences and More

This afternoon I Tweeted that I was thankful that my school allows teachers and students to use cell phones and social media in the classroom. After sending out that Tweet I got a bunch of requests to elaborate, so here are my experiences using cell phones and social media in the classroom followed by some examples from others. If you have your own experience to share, please leave a message.

My Experiences
What prompted my Tweet today was my reaction to the great presentations made by the students in one of my classes this afternoon. For the last couple of weeks the students in that class worked on developing independent business plans that they then "pitched" to an angel investor. A handful of my students used social media Twitter and YouTube's messaging system to contact people who could offer them some advice about starting a business on the web.

This is an excerpt from a post about cell phones that I wrote in the fall of 2009. 
This afternoon in my civics class we were discussing some of the citizens' initiative questions on this fall's ballot in Maine. At one point in the conversation I saw one of my students playing with her cell phone. In an attempt to make sure she was paying attention I asked this student what she was doing. She said that she just received a text from her mom telling her that she could stay after school. So I said, kind only half-seriously, ask your mom what she knows about Question 4. Another student said, "can I ask my mom too?" And in a matter of minutes more than half of my class had sent a text message to their parents asking them what they knew about Question 4.

The responses from parents were interesting in that many of the responses echoed the various messages that have been running on local television stations. After we had received all of the responses we talked about why some parents knew more than others about Question 4 and the role of television and radio advertising in influencing voters' positions. Those discussions took place on top of the original pro v. con conversation that had started prior to breaking-out the cell phones.

The experiences and perspectives of others.
On August 29, 2010 The Boston Globe ran a good article about Burlington High School Principal Patrick Larkin's approach to cell phones in his school. One of the things that jumped-out at me while reading the article was this quote from Patrick in response to a question about concerns that students will cheat or be distracted by using cell phones or laptops: “If they want to cheat, they’re going to cheat,’’ Larkin said, “with technology or anything else.’’ He said he doesn’t see much difference between this and the old scourge of teachers — note passing. “We’ve had no problem with note passing the last few years . . . I wonder why . . . they’re texting!’’ he said. Read the whole article here and make sure you read the closing quote from Principal Larkin.

Patrick Larkin takes an approach to dealing with cell phones in schools that many of us would like to see in schools. Rather than spending our effort and limited time telling students to put away their pocket computers (cell phones) we should put that effort into learning how we can leverage mobile devices to improve the learning experiences of our students.

The following video from CNN is a report on two different approaches to dealing with cell phone use by students. Thankfully, my school is slowly moving toward the second approach. Watch the video below then leave a comment and tell us which approach your school uses and which approach you prefer. 


Finally, to put social media and cell phones use in a greater context, check out Clay Shirky's TED Talk How Social Media Can Make History.