- Most people realize that mobile phones are actually mobile computers. But many schools that claim to be doing everything they can to get technology into the hands of schoolchildren then ban their students from using the computers that they bring in their pockets every day. The issue apparently is not technology, it’s control. We need to call this for what it is.
- Students know that mobile phones are powerful learning devices. They know that when we ban them, we are sending them messages that we don’t get it. Or that we’re not really about learning.
- We have to stop blaming the device. Classroom management stems from good instruction.
- We have to stop the ‘holier than thou’ pronouncements about today’s kids. We haven’t seen significant evolutionary changes in children in just a few decades. Our students (or their brains) are not substantially different, they just have different opportunities. Nostalgia aside, we adults were often bored out of our minds in school too. If we had Facebook, texting, Snapchat, and other avenues to alleviate our boredom, we would have turned to them as well. Let’s quit the arrogant attitudes of moral superiority.
- Banning and blocking does absolutely nothing to teach students about inappropriate or untimely mobile phone usage because it removes the decision-making locus from students to educators. Students don’t ever get a chance to own their mobile phone behavior when they are just passive – and usually resentful or bewildered – recipients of our fiats.
- Many schools say that they’re trying to foster more student agency. That should mean more than fairly-constrained choices related to content. Student choice in environmental contexts and instructional tools (ahem, learning technologies) matters too.
- No one – I repeat, no one – can concentrate without any distractions whatsoever for 45-50 minutes straight. Nor can they then repeat that 6 to 8 times a day. Is our goal with these ‘digital distraction’ bans to have students’ 100% attention at all times or else? If so, are we just punishing students for how our human brains work?
- Maybe it’s not the phone that’s leading to students’ distraction. Distraction can result from hunger, fatigue, illness, anxiety, boredom, an overstimulating classroom environment, the desire to engage in additional research, or a whole host of other factors (e.g., frequency of daydreaming is highest during undemanding, easy tasks). Let’s avoid simplistic solutions to complex contexts.
- If we involved students in the creation of school mobile phone policies – with authentic input and decision-making, including about ‘consequences’ – instead of fighting with them, we probably would be pleasantly surprised at the outcomes.
- When students use mobile phones despite our bans, maybe they’re not defiant. Maybe they’re rational given the context in which they’re embedded. Did I mention that classroom management stems from good instruction?
Bill Ayers said:
What we call education is usually no more than training. We are so busy operating schools we have lost sight of learning. We mostly participate in certification mills, institutions founded on notions of control and discipline, lifeless and joyless places where people serve time and master a few basic skills on their way to a plain piece of paper that justifies and sanctions the whole affair. Sometimes, these places are merely mindless, and sometimes they are expressly malevolent.
via Paul Thomas at https://go.shr.lc/2Tj60sl
The technology affords an environment in which students [can] take on more of the power and responsibility for their own learning.
But we don’t see that. Instead, we see
a hype-and-bust cycle that goes back to the personal computer. Look at all the marvelous things technology is going to do! And then it doesn’t happen.
And the reason, as Rheingold correctly identifies, is
the secret, or maybe not so secret, agenda, which is that the classroom is really for teaching compliance. That was useful when societies were transforming from agrarian to industrial, but it’s less than useful in a world where you’re going to need to be thinking critically about the information you find.
And there we have – all tidy and neat – the biggest barrier to effective technology integration in today’s schools, even in those 1:1 environments that provide computing devices for every student. We could be (should be!) utilizing technology to empower youth at school but instead it’s still about control. That’s why we have acceptable use policies, not empowered use policies. And that’s why in most classrooms we continue to see replicative uses of technology rather than transformative uses. It doesn’t matter that computers are the most powerful learning devices ever invented in all of human history if we’re afraid to lets kids fly.
Fear is a prison. And empowerment within tightly-constrained, adult-directed parameters isn’t really empowerment.
[Guiding question: What can we do to give students more agency and ownership of what they learn, when they learn, how they learn, and how they show what they’ve learned?]
Image credit: Fear is a prison
JogNog did a short survey of more than 150 teachers and principals across America. One of the questions it asked was, “What are your three biggest challenges to being a great teacher?” The top two responses were motivating students and student behavioral issues.
Over at Education Rethink, Steve from Jognog said, “The technology can create even more control issues in class – more headaches for the teacher. So the technology needs to be simple and consistent.” But the top two responses fall within the category of students aren’t buying what we’re trying to sell them and are instructional/curricular issues, not technology issues.
I’ve got two quick thoughts on this:
- If technology in your classrooms is viewed as a (lack of) control issue, you’ve got bigger issues. It’s not about control. It’s about learning. Yet again, our needs to box in and manage students get in the way of engagement and learning.
- As Seymour Papert used to emphasize, good technologies should have low floors (i.e., it’s easy for novices to get started) and high ceilings (i.e., it’s easy for experts to work on increasingly sophisticated projects). ‘Simple and consistent’ may be desirable low floor characteristics but we need much, much more for our students.
What are your thoughts?
Image credit: Web architecture, Bigstock
Motivated, engaged, challenged, and successful students are well-behaved, not because they’ve been threatened but because they are too busy engaged in learning to misbehave. The goal of classroom management is not quiet classrooms, it’s productive students.