To Representative Sheryl Allen (R-Bountiful) and Dr. Bryan Bowles (Superintendent of Davis School District):
I have read, with great interest, Jennifer Toomer-Cook's recent article about banning electronic devices in classrooms. As a public school teacher, I strongly sense the need to inform you that not all educators think that mobile electronic devices serve merely as an educational deterrent. In actuality, I feel very much to the contrary.
At this point in the history of education (both public and private), we are experiencing a huge shift - not only in the way our country perceives educational need (and how education should be administered) but also in the techniques we all use to learn. In the past, most learning either took place through reading books or it occurred in the classroom, as the teacher imparted knowledge to the student. In the 21st Century, however, our students - when responsibly connected to their network - will often know more than the teacher, given that our students are actually permitted to come to class with Google in their pockets. Admittedly, this shift in thinking is huge: a paradigm, if you will. Do we really want our students to have access to an unlimited supply of information? As educators, are we prepared to admit that we are no longer the end-all/be-all distributors of knowledge that we once were?
In my humble opinion:
- Shift has happened, it's now time for educators to pay attention.
- Our students will stay connected whether we permit it or not - simply because the very tools we are attempting to ban have such tremendous potential for learning.
- We do our students a tremendous disservice in denying them access to the very tools for learning (namely cell phones and an Internet-connected computer) that we, as adults, currently utilize to obtain information. Are we not, as educators, attempting to prepare our students for life as responsible adults?
- Rather than running from the evil cell phones used by our students, why don't we figure out better ways to teach using such technologies?
In conclusion, I believe that John Dewey has said it best:
P.S. To learn more about cell phones and their highly educational uses in education, it may prove beneficial for you to browse the following websites and articles:
- Pay Attention
- Liz Kolb's Cell Phones As Learning Tools
- Tony Vincent's Mobile Web on learninginhand
- Marc Prensky's What Can You Learn From A Cell Phone? - Almost Anything!
- Jeff VanDrimmelen's 8 Ways to use Camera Phones in Education
- Ellen D. Wagner's Enabling Mobile Learning
Good News Update: I've received email responses from both Representative Allen and Superintendent Bowles. I'm actually encouraged by their positive responses. From Dr. Bowles:
From your e-mail, I am reading that you are concerned that a policy would mean eliminating them completely from classrooms. I hope not. In fact, I said to Jennifer that we used to do that, but we should not approach any electronic device in that way any more. We are now preparing students for their future and not our present. A common sense set of guidelines provides structure while promoting amazing possibilities. I also know that students text test answers. I also know that students have taken pictures of other students in gym locker rooms and have emailed those pictures to a wide distribution list. I also know that students (who can multi-task) play games and engage in activities that district their peers. Those potential problems cannot overwhelm us in our ability to use electronic devices as learning tools. If we don't establish a policy, I'm afraid that folks may want to "throw the baby out with the bath water." They will want to shut down the use of all electronic devices. None of us, I hope, wants that.Hopefully Jennifer (the author of the newspaper article) will consider writing a follow-up article outlining some of the many positive aspects of using electronic devices to teach. Without balance - in the classroom, in our uses of technology, and even in the media - we've already failed.
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