20 Responses to “Slide – Banning students’ computers”

  1. Scott- I know what you are trying to say with the slide and in theory, I agree agree with you. The practical reality of high school (and even grad school) is that most student use their cell phones to text their friends or to make phone calls. From anecdotal observation, I see very few kids using phones for academic research, academic photography, or academic messaging for collaboration on a topic.

    I think the issue here is not so much the tools. The tools (phone and computer) have limitless possibility. The issues are access, distraction, the lack of ability for students (both teen aged and adult) to “be in the moment”, digital divide in terms of no schools are providing data plans for kid’s phones so only those that can afford $30 or more a month have the access in the first place, adults and students alike becoming to the point of rude where they refuse to engage with a teacher or instructor because they are too focused on their handheld….the list goes on.

    I argue that before we put any tools in the hands of any learners, discussion and group consensus is require to agree for how he tools will and won’t be used.

  2. I am a 7th grade science teacher and recently allowed students to bring their handhelds(cell phone/ipod touch) for a science investigation. I talked to the students ahead of time and we established a “circle of trust” for using personal devices in my class. There were no problems. I am realistic to the fact that problems will happen, consider them teachable moments. We don’t ban pencils when they are misused!

  3. Here’s the thing though – is the “computer” they bring with them a USEFUL computer? Most cell phones aren’t iPhones or Google Android devices…and even the computing ability of THOSE devices is neutered by all the contractual agreements…

    Even IF you have useful cell phone/computers in the student’s hands, Barry’s point above still stands…

  4. Thanks for the pushback / feedback. How much of the issue of students’ non-use of cell phones for academic purposes is an EDUCATOR issue, not a STUDENT issue?

  5. “How much of the issue of students’ non-use of cell phones for academic purposes is an EDUCATOR issue, not a STUDENT issue?”

    While there may be some educators who do not/cannot see the phone as a tool regardles of its application, I would argue that the problem lies more with the students then the teacher.

    Case in point: I assume we can agree that a laptop is a useful tool and most teachers would agree. All too often, teachers have a pre-discussion wit the class, present an engaging lesson with goals, a chance for kids to explore and create, and do some self directed learning…and teachers still have to resort to hyper-vigelence or software (like SMART-eyes) to keep kids from going off an playing games, watching YouTube videos, or checking their Facebook page. Whose fault would that be?

  6. Part of how I made my hay in academia is taking computer software that had one purpose in macromolecular simulation and basically twisting the everlovin’ dickens out of the stuff to make it do what I wanted it to do. I built everything for my teaching demonstration at my current employer from lab gear available on-site. I know from taking stuff as it is and using it, both in research and in teaching.

    You have a small fraction of students in the college environment (to say NOTHING of the secondary school environment) who have cell phones CAPABLE of doing anything useful in terms of information retrieval and manipulation. Most of those cell phones have data plans that cost $N dollars per month, where N is a number far greater than I’m willing to pay on my assistant professor’s salary. I don’t think a school district is willing to pay that kind of money either.

    And again: the data plans are not universal internet. You’re locked into what the provider says you can visit, with the tools that the cell phone maker allows you to download. Somebody can correct me if I’m wrong, but open-source software for cell phones is something I don’t think exists.

    Educator v student isn’t the question here. There isn’t a manufacturer or service provider who has academic purposes in mind. Many of them don’t even really have business purposes in mind. The fact that the iPhone is useful for business is a happy accident; that wasn’t the purpose in its design. And the Blackberry is more and more of a social tool and less of a practical one all the time…

    Sorry, there are so many great ideas here, but this one just strikes me as bull…

  7. Here is an idea. Cell phones often have picture/capabilites and they are a great way to record data during a science experiment. Several phones also have voice recorders. How about showing a student a educational purpose for a cell phone–the business world does it!

  8. This is a classroom management issue.

    See http://www.teachpaperless.com for ideas and ongoing discussion.

  9. This will be an ongoing problem as long as we continue to expect that students be quiet and listen for the majority of the class period. How about embracing the technology and creating in-class projects and assignments that require the use of the cell phone or laptop as Scott did in his class? It may not be feasible on a daily basis, but most kids would welcome the opportunity to use their phones and then would respect a teacher’s request to put them away when they are not educationally appropriate. That can be addressed at the beginning of the year.

  10. After frustration of students taking pictures of every science experiment in my class (2-3 labs per week) and only having one camera to use, I asked for permission for students to use their phones. Students and I had a long discussion of expectations, etc. They have been wonderful. Some can text or email to a class flickr or their individual account to retrieve. We also use SD readers if needed. It has freed up time and increased creativity.

  11. Over the last couple of years I’ve been studying for masters degree in technology and learning. During that time I’ve investigated the use of mobile phones in both Science and Maths classes. http://www.cs.tcd.ie/~gsharpe/mathsweb While the research is not complete yet I’ve found that I’ve had no problems with students using their mobile phones at all. From the outset we agreed on a code of conduct and there really hasn’t been any problems at all. What I have found during both these projects is that my students seem to me as if they have a lot more enthusiasm for the subject and that the use of the technology has brought out their creative side ( a side I have to be honest I have not seen before). Like any class plan there needs to be a specific use for the technology in order for them to get full use of it. The vast majority of the students would have fairly basic phones but even the basic phones have video and photo capabilities so there are endless uses for it. I’m about to use GPS to teach co-ordinate Geometry tomorrow so I’ve borrowed a few GPS devices for this and hopefully they will have a bit of fun learning what I find is a very tedious topic! With the specs of more and more of the so called ‘basic phones’ being improved every day I feel that it is vital that this technology is used more and more in the classrom and us as teachers need to embrace it.

  12. Although I am not anti cell phone, in the school advocate, I have seen the other side of this issue. I have had three incidences this year where pictures were taken of individual students without their permission and without their clothes on. It can be extremely damaging to students and although this can also happen with a digital camera, it can be spread like wildfire using the cell phone’s pic messaging capabilities.
    This is a tool, but unfortunately one which is often placed in the hands of children with little to no instruction on the safe or ethical use.
    I would like to see students using this wonderful piece of technology in school for all of the purposes listed above. I would also want to ensure that the technology is used in a responsible, ethical manner.
    I don’t think the answer is to take the phones away, but there has to be some education not only on the potential uses, but the need for responsible use.

  13. Wow…

    This has become an interesting strand of conversation—-and relevant, considering the number of schools that ban cellphones from the classroom.

    Barry wrote:
    From anecdotal observation, I see very few kids using phones for academic research, academic photography, or academic messaging for collaboration on a topic.

    For me, another ancedotal observation applies: Most classrooms that I’ve been in lately are miserably disconnected, slow places where learning is limited times ten!

    We expect kids who were born in the “multi-generation”—multi-tasking, multimedia—to sit quietly and absorb information for 90 minutes at a crack.

    No wonder they’re texting naked pictures to one another!

    The “problems” that teachers describe when talking about cell phones often seem to center around distraction—-kids don’t pay attention to me while I’m talking and that’s rude.

    All that I know is when I teach a killer lesson on content that is motivating to my kids, NOTHING distracts them.

    Phones aren’t causing distrated students.

    Boring lessons are.


  14. A school in Spokane, WA experimented with a cell phone jammer before deciding it was probably illegal…


  15. I love all of these kinds of stories because they remind me of the Coyote in the Road Runner series. Dude comes up with complicated plan after complicated plan to catch the Road Runner and ends up failing miserably every time—and looking goofy in the process!

  16. I believe that any technology can be worthwhile to students as long as the teacher sets guidelines and procedures. We live in a techno world, at some point we need to integrate new and emerging technologies.

  17. Barry said that I argue that before we put any tools in the hands of any learners, discussion and group consensus is require to agree for how he tools will and won’t be used.

    BUT the tools are in their hands, and they are being used. While the establishment is discussing and trying to reach consensus they are also becoming increasingly irrelevant (sorry to pun on the blog title). But teachers aren’t irrelevant unless they chose to be, the kids need us to help them discern how use the tools they have well instead of having to discover everything the hard way. Clay Shirky says it better than I can here: http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable/

  18. Heard this great interview last eve on NPR re Cell Phone use in Health Care. Helped me to appreciate how we have just started to tap the potential. Thought if I was still teaching math, I might have kids take a picture of one example of an algorithm of their choice to help cement the technique. Just one example. Could assemble artifacts on the cell phone… Link is:


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