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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Celebrate Back to School!

Today, my kids went back to school. They were so wound up last night.. My oldest said, "I'm so excited its like a holiday...except I can't sleep in tomorrow and I don't get any presents."

As I think about my kids getting a year older and going back to school after a short summer. It reminds me of thoughts about technology within schools and it makes me sad they are growing up so fast:(

Negative View of Technology in Schools

A few schools still have a long way to go in terms of technology. The article Duncanville schools will fine $15 for cellphone use tells how students will be fined for having a cell phone in school. Students cannot have them at all in the school.
Tammy Kuykendall, a district spokeswoman, said teachers and principals had reported some disruptions during the school day last year when students would use cellphones or other electronic devices during lunch periods, in between classes or in the restrooms...Ms. Kuykendall and DeSoto schools spokeswoman Beth Trimble said the goal of the policy is not to cut off communication between student and parent. There are plenty of campus phones inside offices and in classrooms if the student needs to contact a parent immediately, they said.
So, authority to child communication...good...peer-to-peer communication...bad.

I really question this policy. I think it is a great example of one school showing just how out of touch it is with modern day reality of technology...sad. And, I think irresponsible. Text messaging is being used as a new security measure in many college and even some high schools, how else can a large scale message get to kids?

I've written about the concept of schools banning iPods and other technologies before in Hire that Kid! Instead of banning the technology or fining students for possessing it, we need to figure out better ways to integrate it into the classroom. Cell phones have calculators, web browsers, texting and other tools that can serve educational purposes. A blanket, blind use of technology is not appropriate either...but neither is a blanket banning of technology.

Here are some positive uses of cell phones in the classroom from an article titled Cell Phones: Nuisance or Necessity
Calculators. Although most schools have them in math class, other classes that don't have them on hand for students can benefit from number crunching. For example, social studies students studying elections can quickly determine percentages of electoral votes or other scenarios. Science classrooms can use them to perform calculations related to fieldwork.

Digital cameras. Not all schools or classrooms are outfitted with digital cameras, although many can benefit from them. For example, students can use them to document a variety of things for multimedia presentations or reports. Fieldtrips can be documented and incorporated into digital travelogues.

Internet access. Some phones have wireless Internet access, thus opening up a world of possibilities for class use. Science students might conduct fieldwork and submit their observations or data to either an internal or external data gathering site.

Dictionaries. Students in literature and language arts classes can benefit from being able to quickly query the definition of a word. Additionally, students who are English learners especially can benefit from translation dictionaries which are becoming available on cell phones.

It is not only school policy we need to rally against, sometimes it is school board members who are mis-informed. In a past post titled So Far to Go: A Local School Board Candidate Armed with Mis-Information I write about a school board member who found two negatively slanted articles about technology and is now using them as her platform for school reform.

Positive Use of Technology in School

However, it is not all bad news, some schools are being very progessive with handheld technology. An article on the Palm web site reveals how students in Arlington are using handhelds in the classroom.
"We decided to implement Palm handheld computers last year to support our K-5 writing program," says Camilla Gagliolo, Arlington instructional technology specialist. "We thought handhelds would allow students to complete the entire writing process using technology in their own classrooms, instead of in the computer lab. And now with the many options available for publishing their work, the project has become even more exciting."

Finally, you can listen to some student podcasts done at the Sidney Central School District as an example. The web site states;
Did you know that you can download podcasts developed by our students and faculty? Click here for an updated list of special presentations
Listen for yourself at SCS Educast System.

Final Comment

So, let's celebrate going back to school and all the positive work that thousands of school districts are doing around the world to help integrate technology into the classroom!

Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

4 comments:

BARTON said...

Unfortunately, I think some teachers are scared. I recall a few YouTube videos last year of a handful of students "pushing the teacher's buttons" so to speak, then having a friend record the teacher's outbreak on a cellphone, and posting to youtube.

I agree, the policy is terrible. I can understand the potential fear of teachers and administrators...but I think they simply need to deal with and understand that the classroom is no longer bound by walls.

Stan Yann said...

It seems that a simple cellphone has become a Swiss Army gadget offering the user a lot of tools some of which they might not have a clue what to do with. I remember that when I started my first full-time job after college 8 years ago I was selling cellphones that were no better than a common cordless phone. And now they help you organize your life and to be more productive. There is definitely room for cellphones in education.

Karl Kapp said...

Bart-
I agree 100% there is a degree of fear and unfamiliarity. Maybe administators need to be doing more to help teachers understand the technology.

Stan,
Cellphones are like Swiss Army gadgets...good comparison. As I mentioned to Bart, maybe adminstrators should be educated in all the power of their cell phones, I'll bet many of them don't even know all the capabilities of their cell phones.

Bethany Sheeler said...

I remembered reading this posting a month or so ago as I came across an article today called, "Fight Cyberbullies, Schools Told."

The teacher's union in this article (from http://news.bbc.co.uk/) refers to cells as offensive weapons:

"The union is calling for pupils' mobile phones to be classed as potentially offensive weapons and for them to be banned during school sessions."

Yes, cell phones, the internet, etc. are [unfortunately] used as new vehicles to attack others, but I wonder if the teacher's union recognized the positives of cells in schools?