Showing posts with label cell phones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cell phones. Show all posts

Re-telling Stories and A Public Confession

Some stories require multiple tellings.

Following up on what remains one of this blog's more popular posts, I couldn't help snapping this picture the other day. I call it A Public Confession.

A Public Confession - Click to enlarge.

More teens have smartphones today than ever before. To me, this means that more teachers have powerful technology to use as a resource for furthering their instructional purposes. It also means that more teens need more help in learning how to best use that power in safe and productive ways.

If we don't teach students balance and appropriate cell phone use, who will?

In other related news, Dan Haesler provides a nice angle on the state of social media instruction.
Imagine for a second if we taught our teenagers to drive a car in the same manner we attempt to teach them about social media.

1. Driving lessons would be taught by adults (teachers or parents) with little or no experience of driving.

2. Driving lessons would only focus on what not to do.

3. Driving lessons would NEVER take place in an actual car.
Outstanding analogy for an important problem.

My (still) pie-in-the-sky wish is that in all schools:
  1. Policy would allow for teacher autonomy in using cell phones and social media as instructional tools.
  2. More teachers had the technological-pedagogical skills and philosophy required to effectively harness these technologies for in-class use.
  3. More curricula encouraged real-world experience instead of the artificial environments that adults seem to think serve children best.
Yes, some stories require multiple tellings.

Change, But On A Larger Scale

Lest I'm accused of a mindset only focused on the staffing needs of the Canyons School District, I thought I'd share a comment that I left last night on Karl Fisch's blog. The post, simply entitled Disconnect(Ed), shows a picture of a collection of cell phones, obviously swiped from students while they struggle their way through the current round of standardized tests. All told, I've collected paper box lids of cell phones like that myself, because I had to, and even at times because I wanted to.

Before I left my response, the only comment on the post was written by Andrew Neely. In it, he gives the type of reasoning that is typical of forward-thinking educators and, at least in my opinion, seems to echo the sentiments of the glaring majority of writers that frequent our online conversations.

In that, Andrew's my kind of guy.

Nonetheless, I feel somewhat unsettled - not so much by the matter-of-fact tone in Andrew's comment - but by how easy so many seem to think that the kinds of change we're begging for will take to honestly become a reality. Thus my response (with spelling corrected and emphasis added):

The implication you're making here is huge, Andrew.

You seem to be saying that our current systems of traditional learning are broken - that not only are our assessments flawed, but that the very foundations upon which we have built our schools (societies?) are no longer supportive of the kinds of learning that we (society) now need our students to do.

In other words, not only do we need to change the way we test, but the way we teach - and all this because of the ways that our students can now learn. Is it so wrong now to want our students to prove what they know and can do all by themselves? Apparently so - after all, we now live in a networked world.

No wonder it's taking so long for shift to happen in our schools.
We're talking about colossal shifts here: In schools, in teachers, in assessments, and in attitudes. All because we can (?), and ultimately because we should.

One teacher, one class, one school, one district, one nation, and one world at a time.

Original image source: Karl Fisch. Amazingly edited with Aviary.

Freedom and One to One Computing

I spent the day today tethered to an iPod Touch. Email, web surfing, and tweeting galore. Photos, videos, and apps they call educational - the iPod Touch (and iPhone, clearly) seems to be that little Internet device we've all dreamed of. Nonetheless, I'd summarize my experience today with one simple sentence:

As good as mobile computing might be, there's nothing that compares to the freedom felt upon returning to my MacBook Pro.

With that in mind, however, I still consider the iPod/iPhone/other mobile device combo to be one of the only feasible options for one-to-one computing for many schools and districts out there. As daunting as providing constant Internet access to 100% of your student population might sound, the task actually sounds manageable when considering that roughly half of your population likely already has access to the Internet, given that policies actually grant them access to the mobile devices they carry with them 24/7.

In that light, providing the other half with an iPod touch doesn't sound all that impossible.

Perhaps my calculations, however, differ slightly (or grossly) from your particular circumstance. Tell me, if you've got the time:
  • In your estimation, what percentage of your student population already has access to the Internet through some sort of mobile device?
Image source: Flickr user Rosh PR.

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What's Up

So here's my take on a few things I've seen lately (items all published within the last seven hours). Kind of a hodge-podge of ideas, so sue me.


First, it appears that some schools are simply too crowded:

Naughty Adsense

Moving on, it seems that Vicki Davis is sick of the inappropriate use of Google's Adsense. Here's a classic line from her recent post:

Seems that "seat of the pants" causes Google Adsense to think I'm needing some sort of medicinal improvement to my husbands and my love life! (It scans keywords in your email to determine what ads you want to see.)
I echo her sentiments:
Although I can deal with this, I think of the students I've recommended to use Gmail. I would like Google Adsense to allow people to OPT OUT of adult advertising.

Period. I don't want to see it and I don't want it in my inbox. I don't want it in my 13 year olds inbox nor my 11 year olds inbox. (Of course, you're not supposed to be able to sign up for Google until you're 18, but honestly that is not happening and everyone knows it.)
Widespread Cell Phone Use

To continue, Patrick Higgins' cell phone survey is the kind of survey I would love to see taken on a global level. Intriguingly enough, over 80% of the 6th and 7th graders (ages 11-13) he polled reported owning a cell phone. Such high numbers correspond with the results I received for high school students last year in a similar survey I attempted to conduct.

I wonder now if the increase in number is best explained by the population of students polled or the tremendous increase in cell phone ubiquity over the course of 15 months. Likely both.

Why Teachers Drink

Even though I don't drink, I'd love to meet Jessica Hagy. She's one of those math-types that actually makes sense to me.

And Today's Guest Speaker Is...

It looks like David Jakes has been spending more time in Canada, from the comfortable confines of his school in Chicago (or maybe he was at Ditka's, doesn't matter). Clarence Fisher explains:

Then today, we opened another live collaboration. This time, David Jakes in Chicago skyped into both my classroom in Snow Lake and Lucy Martin's at St. Elisabeth to talk to both our classes at once about digital storytelling. A planned event, David sent us several videos he wanted to use as examples in advance, and when he reached that point in his discussion, we simply held the call and the students in each classroom took several minutes to watch the videos.

David was a master as he talked to the students about weaving together the elements of video, still pictures, audio files (speech) and music files into a coherent whole.
How cool is that? A guest speaker, talking with two different classes at the same time, separated by over 1,400 miles. Apparently, it would take 19 days, 5 hours to walk that distance.

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Disrupting Class, Today

The ideas shared by Christensen, Horn, and Johnson in their recent book entitled Disrupting Class (2008) are provocative, to say the least. In their attempt to describe the future of education, they address many current educational issues and needs with seemingly plausible solutions and a theory just complex enough to nearly seal the deal. In the end, however, the aggressive predictions they posit have left me in doubt but with hopes of a future so well-defined.

Here's the projection that has me squirming the most:

The result of these four factors – technological improvements that make learning more engaging; research advances that enable the design of student-centric software appropriate to each type of learner; the looming teacher shortage; and inexorable cost pressures – is that 10 years from the publication of this book [2018], computer-based, student-centric learning will account for 50 percent of the "seat miles" in U.S. secondary schools. Given the current trajectory of substitution, about 80 percent of courses taken in 2024 will have been taught online in a student-centric way. Given how long some have been in the trenches of school reform, this will be quite a breathtaking "flip". (p. 102)
Now, I realize that this is likely a non-issue for higher education - because many colleges and universities are probably already seeing numbers similar to these. But K-12? An entirely different picture. In crunching the numbers for the just high schools in my district alone, I'm in complete agreement with the final sentence I've quoted above: This would be quite a breathtaking flip, indeed. While my large, urban district may not be representative of every institution out there, it can hopefully demonstrate a helpful perspective on exactly what they are proposing.

Do you understand that this kind of change would consequently require that the number of student computers we currently have in our district's schools would need to more than DOUBLE in the next TEN years and more than TRIPLE in the next SIXTEEN?

Ugh (we can't even maintain the computers we have now)!

Sure, life will be different when today's kindergarten students graduate from college, but will it really be that different? And will change really come that quickly?

Schools simply don't change over night.

Nevertheless, in allowing this topic to ruminate for several weeks now, I'm learning that perhaps the only things that really need to change in our schools are mindsets and policies. If schools were to encourage (or even require?) students to bring their "little Internet machines" to class, there's absolutely no reason we couldn't be Disrupting Class today!


If so, then I see computers playing a huge role. I also see mobile, hand-held technologies as one of the easiest ways to achieve the kind of computing (connectivity?) that Christensen, et al. predict will sweep across our schools. Other options for such wide-spread computing simply aren't as feasible.

Even in thinking different, however, I guess we still have a long, long way to go.

  • Christensen, C. M., Johnson, C., & Horn, M. (2008). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Image Source: Flickr user 1541

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Controlling Mobile Phone Use in Schools

So it looks like the majority of schools out there really don't care to allow mobile phones in the classroom (aka those pesky "little internet machines" - hat tip to Mr. Higgins). As of this writing, roughly 90% of respondents claim that their school actually bans the use of mobile phones in the classroom, regardless of teacher preferences.

Sure, they're cool. Sure, they're engaging (surprise). But the truth is that even we adults honestly don't know how to control the use of mobile phones. We're as bad as the kids when it comes to not understanding (or not being willing to comply within) the limits of appropriate and non-appropriate use. This truth hit home the other day when I snapped this picture while waiting to place my order at a McDonald's drive-thru window.

(Taken, of course, with the camera in my cellphone)

Sheesh. Not even Ronald McDonald wants me to multitask. Do you think we have a problem here? Unbelievable.

The real issue for me, nevertheless, lies in the fact that we are the teachers. We ARE the teachers. Aren't we?
  • Are we not the ones that were hired because of our abilities to manage a room full of kids?
  • Are we really not capable of figuring out how to monitor and guide our students in their educational use of mobile phones?
  • Do we not have the responsibility to teach proper etiquette in using these new technologies?
  • Is banning really the only way to manage this issue or is it really just the easy way out?

Onward and Upward

On a positive note and in a positive direction, Liz Kolb has been blazing the trail when it comes to using mobile phones to teach and to learn. In a recent Twitter conversation, she shared the rules that she uses to govern her students' in-class mobile phone use. Ironically, these rules were created by the students themselves (again, if we can't beat 'em, why don't we join 'em?):
  1. Phone ringers must be set to vibrate at all times.
  2. Phones are placed at the front of the room, away from all students, when they are not in use as a class.
  3. All media/messages must be course related.
  4. All media published about/of others must be approved by them.
  5. All messages can be accessed at any time (through cellphone companies - no message/media is private)!
In order to monitor her students' progress and behavior, Mrs. Kolb says that she simply uses web sites that back up messages and media (Flickr mobile, Utterz, Gcast, and Jott all have this capability). She then uses these sites in the classroom, live, as the assignments are happening. By watching the media come in (and by noticing when the media is sent), a teacher can then tell which students are on task and which ones are not.

Bravo, Liz, and hanks for your shining example!

Now excuse me a minute while I go take this call.

Image Source: Flickr users RSEanes and yewenyi

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Poll: School Mobile Phone Policies

Just wonderin'.

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I've seen signs like this on classroom doorways across the state and wonder when we'll ever get a clue. In my experiences as a teacher, engaging the students can be one of the most difficult aspects to teaching. With that in mind, why would we ever want to ban a tool that - when used properly - can instantly connect a teacher with their students?

Unless, of course, there are policies in place (AA419, II A 7) directing one's behavior. So much for teacher autonomy.

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What Are We Really Doing Here?

A number of recent experiences have left me scratching my head:

  • Yesterday, I watched a group of teenagers play Ultimate Frisbee. During the 10 minutes I watched, one particular youth checked his mobile phone every minute, sometimes replying to a text, sometimes only reading.
  • The other day, I went to see Iron Man. During the entire movie, the tween-aged youth sitting in front of me found the movie to be so non-compelling that she chose to text on her phone with more frequency than the Ultimate Frisbee specimen. I could tell because her phone would shower the theater with light - a lot of fun, let me tell you.
  • Now let's get personal. For the Fourth of July, we went to a small town, watched a parade. A sixteen-year-old relative of mine spent the parade text-ing away. His frequency wasn't as drastic as FrisbeeText and IronTween, but his actions were certainly in the running. Now, his nine-year-old sister has a mobile phone, too. Needless to say, my wife didn't get far in convincing her that nine-year-olds, properly supervised, should rarely have need to send a text message.
What, in teenage (waste)land, could possibly be so compelling that the conversation in the cloud could be more incessantly important than the conversations that might be had with the person sitting next to them? Am I anti cell phones? Absolutely not. I think we all should be using them to teach and to learn. But what I'm talking about is a balance that may be missing in the lives of the rising generation.

Combine this idea with our recent discussion about what's best for our students, ageism, respect, fame, public perception, collateral damage, digital immigration, apologies, and the Beatles and I'm forced to ask:

What are we really doing here?

I'll close with Ryan Bretag's sobering addition to Wednesday's exchange:
My point is what about all the things teachers have students doing online where it isn't a choice but the teacher's mandate that some, most, a little, whatever of their learning, risk-taking, mistakes, failures, and success are public by way of the Web 2.0 tools we hold so close...

Are we doing our students a disservice by wanting so much of their learning to be shared through the tools provided by today's Internet? Should this be a choice made by each student? Do they truly understand the gravity of such a decision? Will anything in their future be impacted, positively or negatively, because of this public display of their learning?
Extremely important issues that must be considered.

Image Source: Flickr user ::: Billie / PartsnPieces :::

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Making Change, One Sock At A Time

My daughter plays indoor soccer - a kind of hockey/soccer conglomeration that is amazing to both play and watch. As I prepared to watch her last game, I was a little shocked by the uniforms worn by one of the teams playing in the game scheduled prior to that of my daughter's team. I guess I had just never seen a uniform that consisted of two separately colored socks before. Consequently, I had to snap a picture:

In considering the uniform (and its apparent attempt to identify its "true colors"), I was struck once again. Yep, one of those "ah-ha" moments:

  • In embracing change, it's usually best to take baby steps - one sock at a time.
This notion of gradual transition equally applies to new technologies - and their adoption into pedagogical practice. Yep, like cell phones and incorporating open-phone testing, and even allowing our students in-school access to their networks.

For Example - Bear with me here, there's more to this than socks!

Take Teacher X, of School Y, in District JSD. Yep, my district. And while Teacher X probably wouldn't mind if I used his real name, I'll plead the 5th on his behalf. Why? Because in-class use of cell phones - for whatever reason - is actually prohibited by district policy (number AA419, section IIA7 - to be exact). Given that very few teachers in our district actually know about this policy, it seems to be sort of a don't ask, don't tell kind of policy - if you ask me). But then again nobody really asked me.

Anyway, back to Teacher X. Here's an email I received from him just the other day (edited only slightly so as to not disclose his identity - I love how his writing actually reveals his personality):
OK... here's the whole story... since mid-first-term, I took my huge, orange anti-cell-phone poster, down from my class room wall, and challenged my students to find it, and define my policy (easier this term, since it's explained from the get-go...). Well, when they can't find it, they're understandably perplexed, and to wit, I explain MY electronics device policy: when we're 'engaged' in active teaching/learning, unplug, and the cell phones disappear... or I WILL take them away... common courtesy prevails.

One thing you DON'T know about me is I'm an active teacher... I lecture, but walk around the classroom, up and down the rows, etc... I can't STAND static teaching... so boring and it's good for me to get some exercise while I'm teaching. They learn pretty quickly, and all is well... and their 'common courtesy' prompt is, when we disengage (when I stop lecturing or teaching and put them off on an assignment...) they ask, "May we plug in?", and I say sure. They're [then] released from that stupid policy... iPods, cell phones, etc. are fair game.

As a Health Educator I tell them, if I'm lecturing, and I see their hands in their laps, busy, and they're smiling, one of two things is going on... and I'm hoping they're texting... NOT the other... but they're NOT fooling anyone. So, I always stop, and ask 'em, "What are you doing...?"... and I mean it... you know me as well and anyone when it comes to cell phone technology... they get all flustered, but I tell 'em, "No... I really want to know WHAT you're doing... I don't care you're texting, because we're disengaged... I just want to know what you're doing...".

So, the young lady this morning said she was texting a boyfriend who had graduated from [School Y] last year and had moved to Seattle... so I prompted, in front of the rest of the class, "Find out what he had for breakfast... if you do, extra credit...". Then, it's off to the races... she got his reply, then someone in the back of the room chimes in: "Breakfast from Montana..." (comment... sheesh, I thought all they ate in Montana was buffalo...), then from another: "Breakfast from California...", etc.

It went on for 20 minutes... talk about a timely (but slightly out of synch) lesson.

I'm beginning to get some GREAT ideas, here...

This veteran teacher (with more than 30 years in the system) went:
  • From absolutely no electronic devices in class
  • To controlled use of electronic devices in class
  • To let's try this thing on the fly.
I absolutely love it!

So I reply to him:
I think that's about the coolest story I've ever heard come out of a health classroom. :) Would you mind if I shared some of this with others? It would do well for other [teachers] to understand several things:
  1. Admitting that you use cellphones for some of your assignments doesn't mean that you're a zealot on a mission to use them hourly, daily, or even weekly - but rather, it demonstrates the fact that you're willing to explore new uses for technology, especially when the lesson permits it.
  2. If you're going to teach with cellphones, you have to be an active teacher, possessing an ample supply of "with-it-ness". Otherwise, the kids will certainly take advantage.
I'll bet when the students realized that you were actually going to allow them to use their cell phones in class that your classroom was all abuzz - no doubt every student was engaged.
Like I said - one sock at a time.

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Electronic Devices In Schools: PLEASE Allow For Teacher Autonomy

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?
Therefore, in drafting legislation and policies used to control the use of electronic devices in the classroom, I admonish you to give the teacher final jurisdiction in determining whether or not such devices are disallowed. To universally ban the use of mobile technologies in the classroom will doubtlessly impair the learning process for many teachers and students.

In conclusion, I believe that John Dewey has said it best:


Darren Draper

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:

- - - - - - - - - - - -

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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Who's Afraid of the Digital Natives?

Reading Will Richardson's recent post has caused me to think more about today's students (aka those pesky Digital Natives). In his post, Will asks a series of very important questions. In my opinion, it is crucial that these questions are answered by those of us that understand the positive benefits of mobile educational technologies before these (and similar) questions are answered by ignorant lawmakers and policymakers - thus forcing us to live with the decisions that are made. As a result, in this post I will attempt to set forth a few answers from my point of view and encourage you to do the same. Hopefully together we can arrive at a general consensus.

To preface his "Rhetorical-Question-A-Rama", Will identifies and discusses the tech habits of a very savvy 14-year-old student from South Korea. Apparently, this student, not unlike many American students, is constantly connected to his network when not in school. During school, this student has also learned to access his network through his mobile phone - while his phone is still tucked away nicely in his pocket. While Will (and subsequent comment writers) seemed very surprised by this student's ability to blindly send text messages to members of his network, I'm not surprised at all. I've known students for years that have had this ability. Yes, here in the States. Even in little ol' Utah. In fact, many of these students were in my own classes. In order to catch up to the current state of things: Arthus, if you're listening, how many kids do you know that can text without looking?

In response to this and similar behaviors that I have witnessed in the lives of our students I began, several months ago, to sound the cry for teachers everywhere to Pay Attention! Obviously, we still have a long way to go.

On to Will's (proclaimed "rhetorical") questions:

  • What should we as educators in a country that is about five years behind South Korea (according to this blog post, at least) be thinking about this version of the future? (Or is it already happening now?)
It seems to me that Will, of all people, should know that this "version of the future" is now. It's happening and has happened for quite some time. In fact, it's very much the kind of "now" that he and Ian and David and Marc and all of the other "thinkers in educational technology" have been describing during the last five years. Personally, I like David Warlick's description of tentacles - when we separate our students from their network, it can very much be compared to chopping off an appendage.

As for what "we as educators... should be thinking"? Yes. We should all be thinking. And now.
  • Do we clamp down harder on the technologies our kids use? Try to penalize, even criminalize their use? Keep pretending that there are no acceptable uses of phones or other connection tools?
These are really good questions (actually all inter-related), the answers to which really lie in how we define the purpose of education. Personally, I think that the heart of the purpose in educating our youth lies in preparing them for the future. I think that many people would also agree with such a purpose: We educate our kids to prepare them for the future - even if we don't yet realize what that future entails.

Now, if the purpose of education is mainly to prepare our students for their future, a time when they are presumably adults, are we doing them any service by not letting them use the tools and techniques that present-day adults use in learning? When an adult (in or out of the workforce) needs to learn something, do they not tend to have access to their network? The last time you had something to learn, what did you do to learn it? People everywhere (except in some schools, churches, and prisons that prohibit such behavior) can find ways to connect to their network. They've got Google in their pockets, they've got their social networks, and from each they learn - because their businesses depend on it, because they've come to expect it, and because we've come to expect it from them.

Hence, even as adults, we've become dependent upon our networks. Why should we expect any less of our students?

Rather than fearing the capabilities of such incredibly talented Digital Natives, I think it's high time we respect what they can do, encourage their development, and stop limiting their potential. I know, I know: Much easier said than done. Nevertheless, these kids are only as "dangerous" as we let them be. If we allow them to use their networks while working on schoolwork, what will they gain from hiding such access?
  • Or do we start thinking about changing what we do and how we do it?
Yes, and we start with our attitudes regarding student network access. We teach responsible use. We cease to ignore reality. And we take David Jakes up on his suggestion:

There's a reason Jakes has said this, you know. David Jakes, like many of our students alike, has realized that in far too many cases, our students are learning more out of school than they are in. And that fact is just not right.
  • Should open phone tests be ok? Should we embed the information and connection skills that the student in the story has into our own curricula?
Absolutely. I don't think we can turn back any longer. Or rather, I don't think we should turn back. The kinds of "tests" that are administered to adults on a daily basis are open phone, open network. Why not prepare our students for adult-life. Why not prepare them for reality?
  • Oh, and by the way, who taught Insoo to do the things he’s doing, do you think?
Insoo taught himself, of course. The same way our students often learn, the same way my daughter has learned, and the same way my dad is learning to learn:

Who's teaching whom (no offense, dad)?

I anxiously await the answers you're now prepared to offer - because if we don't figure out the answers to these and other related questions, who will?


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Cell Phones & iPods Cause Stress

I saw this sign today one as I entered the Main Office of one of our district's high schools. Talk about ROTFL.

As the secretary was watching me take these pictures, I was thinking, "You think iPods and cell phone's cause you stress? Lady, you oughta try teachers around the world to use them in their teaching. Talk about stress..."

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My Take On The iPhone

Enough already. I know it's super iCool. I realize it will let you look up maps to closest iPlace you can order iCalamari, while you're watching iPirates.

But the iPhone's outrageous iPrice has kept me from ever buying this beauty. And I even have (and prefer using) a Mac.

Forgive me for not falling for it, but is any phone really worth $2,000? That's right: two grand - American. By my calculations, it's going to cost every iPhool that buys an iPhone at least $2,000 for the first two iYears - and that's for the cheapest plan (a measly 450 minutes a month!). You can buy a lot of textbooks for that kind of money. Er, you can buy SOME textbooks for that kind of money. Or calculators. Or $100 laptops. Or even cell phones!

Nevertheless, the iPhone would make a fabulous learning tool. I would absolutely love to have my students do a math assignment using maps, GPS, and the cheapest price for calamari (all with photos taken by the students, of course, uploaded to Flickr on the fly). Let's keep it real, though. With the iPhone's outrageous price, it just doesn't add up.

Perhaps that's why we don't see this very often as our students line the halls to enter our iClassrooms.

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Mobile Phone Mania

In my last post, I mentioned a recent survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life project. There has been some interesting data trickling out as a result. According to the study, 73% of Americans have a cell (mobile) phone. Amazing. Nevertheless, I'm still left with several questions: How many of these cell-phone-toting Americans are our students, and how many students world-wide have mobile phone access?

Participation in my recent (unscientific, but hopefully interesting) attempt to learn how many of the world's students have access to mobile phone technology has been a little underwhelming, to say the least. Until Graham Wegner's thoughtful plea I had received no data from schools outside of Utah (a sad thought, indeed). Therefore, I both thank Graham for his valiant effort and ask you, dear reader, if this quest to quantify mobile phone access in the K-12 classroom is worthwhile. Choose your own adventure from the options below.

Adventure #1 - Yes, Acquiring Mobile Phone Access Data = Gallant Endeavor

Great! Follow these steps to help out the cause:

  1. Check out the current results to see the data we're collecting (quick edit - for some reason, Google Spreadsheets is not always granting access to viewers - I'll include a screenshot below of some of the data we've collected so far). If you'd prefer to remain anonymous, I'm OK with that, but we should at least know what school your polling.
  2. You may submit your results as a comment to this post (or email me directly, if you prefer).
  3. If you're a blogger, please spread the word. The more data we can accumulate, the better our vision. To be honest, I'm not in this for any "credit" (if such a thing really exists) - but would love to have data from as many schools possible. In fact, I'd like to give you the credit, so if you want to send me a link to your blog (or website), I'll attach the link to your name in the spreadsheet.
Following established edublogosphere protocol, I will give you a deadline for all data submissions: May 23, 2007. If we can't gather it in a week, then we might as well be using a telegraph.

Disclaimer: I realize that this kind of a study isn't as scientific as it probably should be. Nevertheless, I think it can be quite helpful and can be conducted far more quickly. As more people understand that there is a significant population of teachers that would like to use phones to teach, then perhaps more will create support materials (lesson plans, etc.) that include mobile phone use.

Data To Be Collected (Click to enlarge)

Adventure #2 - No, Acquiring Mobile Phone Access Data = Frivolous Venture

Thank you for (not) playing, have a nice day.

Cellflix Film Festival

As many of you know, the idea of using mobile phones in the classroom (for actual learning purposes) intrigues me. For years I was the typical "don't bring your phone into this classroom" kind of teacher. I eventually came to realize that nearly every one of my students had both a phone and an iPod (you'll see that mobile phone access numbers for Brighton High School hover around 90%).

With this kind of access, why fight it any longer?

I have since been on a quest to identify educational activities that could be done with these technologies that students insist upon carrying into the classroom - in spite of authoritarian attempts to limit such practices (Wesley Fryer did a great post about this a few weeks ago).

The other day, I came across one of the most inviting activities for in-class mobile phone use yet: The Cellflix Film Festival. The rules are basic: Students (high school aged and higher) are to use their phones to record a 30-second film. Video can be edited using a computer with soundtrack and title effects being added to the footage. However, remember that all video must be shot using the camera in your phone. From the Cellflix archives:

You must shoot the story on your cellphone, but you can edit it any way you choose. Produce the best 30-seconds of small-screen cinema, and walk away with the $5,000 Texas Instrument's Audience Award or the $5,000 grand prize -- and the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping to make the world a smaller and more beautiful place.
The festival just completed its second season, with some extremely creative entries. Last year's entries were equally good. The video below took first place in last year's competition (watch it twice to catch the humor).

I personally think that this kind of activity holds tremendous promise for classrooms of all types - especially since so many phones now come with cameras built-in. A quick scan of the phones offered by two major carriers in my area (Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile) revealed that 70% of the phones now sold (51/73) include built-in cameras.

Imagine giving your class this kind of assignment (your class may or may not have its own 'Jimmy'):
Class, today we'll be creating mobile phone video reports. The assignment, due at the end of class, is to create a 30-second video clip explaining the definition of a vocabulary term that I will assign you shortly. Because not every phone has a built-in camera, I want you to work in groups of 3 or 4. No, Jimmy, you may not have 5 in your group. Your definitions should not be read directly from the textbook, but should be presented in your own words. No Jimmy, you may not swear in the video. Videos are to be G-rated.
Videos could then be turned in via email, or (even better) shared in small groups during class. It's not difficult to imagine how excited the students would be to share what they have created with each other. Off the top of my head, I can envision this type of activity working well in a variety of classes:
  • English - Mobile phone video book reports, poetry readings, story-telling
  • Math - Mobile phone video reports on vocabulary, section reviews, and section introductions
  • Social Studies - Mobile phone video reports on nearly any unit (history, current events, economics)
  • Foreign Language - Mobile phone video reports on culture, vocabulary, grammar - all in the language, of course
Now the inclusion of this technology in one's teaching would also result in several things:
  • At first, students would need guidance - control, if you will - to ensure that they stay on-task and focussed. I would recommend setting aside a specific time period for allowed mobile phone use (possibly ringing a bell when phones are to be put away). As a teacher, you will have to manage phone use closely or it will probably spiral out of control.
  • It will also need to be stressed, up front, that any and all activity that students do on their phones is voluntary - in other words, students may use their phones in class, but they aren't required (I'm thinking about students racking up huge bills here, and then claiming that "it was required for school"). A parent permission slip ahead of time may be a good idea. In my opinion, most kids will actually want to use their own phones, but you'll want to cover your bases ahead of time.
  • I can't imagine students not becoming excited about and engage in learning from an assignment of this nature (most have never been asked to actually use their phones in class). Therefore, make the assignment's content count.
Well, that's probably enough for now - just a few thoughts to get started. What's your take? Do you have any experience with this type of assignment?

Mobile Phones For Learning - A Follow-up

As a follow-up to an earlier post I wrote, I find Sue Waters' sentiments to be reflective of the feelings of many of us. Sue commented:

I know first hand the benefits of mlearning as I have clearly seen the gains with my TAFE students but as a parent with kids of these ages my first thoughts were the opposite.
My kids are in the same boat. My eleven-year-old just got an iPod for her birthday and it won't be long before she will want a mobile phone of her own. I don't think I'll be buying one for her anytime soon, but that subject is for a different blog, at a different time.

The study to which Sue referred in her comment raises the very questions I have about mobile phone use in the classroom as well as the reasons to use them. I'll summarize:
Murdoch University researchers are spearheading an innovative project to see how new technologies can help primary school children in their learning. The School of Education has been monitoring the use of mobile phones programmed with educational games to help children in Years 3, 5, 6 and 7 improve mathematics learning.

We have several problems:
  • The big problem we have in today’s world is engaging and motivating young minds.
  • We’re interested in discovering how new technologies can support learning.
  • Traditional teaching methods are simply not keeping up with what the students of today expect and what motivates their learning.
  • Kids use phones for talking, listening to music, sending photos and playing videos but the last thing they use phones for is education.
Employing technology in the classroom could be the solution:
  • The point of this is to use tools the students are familiar with to get them interested in science, maths and English.
  • Mobile phones, considered by many teachers as disruptive in class, could in fact be used to help teach children basic numeracy and literacy skills.
The project is being coordinated by Murdoch’s Centre for Learning, Change and Development in Australia. I, too, am greatly interested in its findings.

Mobile Phone Access in the Classroom - A Call For Help

As I share "Pay Attention" with teachers around my district I am often confronted about the concept of using mobile phones for educational purposes. Almost without fail, some teacher will exclaim that "every student doesn't have access to a phone". Personally, I don't think every student needs access to their own mobile phone to make an assignment that uses them meaningful.

I'm wondering what mobile phone access is really like in the classrooms across the world. Marc Prensky claimed in 2005:

In the United States, the penetration of student mobile phones is 40% in many junior high schools and 75% in many high schools (NOP World 2005); according to a Student Monitor survey (as cited in Kinzie 2005), penetration is 90% in U.S. colleges...

In some countries—including the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, and the Czech Republic—cell phone penetration is greater than 100%, which means that individuals own and use two or more of these devices (Borghese 2005; Agence France-Presse 2004). Cell phone penetration in Asia continues to climb: Hong Kong and Taiwan have already surpassed 100% according to one prominent survey (IT Facts 2004; Simon 2004), and several years ago, J@pan Inc magazine reported that more than 90% of Tokyo high schoolers carried mobile phones (2001).
I think he's pretty close as far as US numbers go, but I'm wondering what numbers are like outside of the United States, and in rural areas inside of the United States. Nina Christou, from ESClub in Greece, sent me access numbers about her school yesterday in an email:
All the kids have mobile phones now (and better ones than the teachers)... Greece is known as the leading country country in Europe for mobile phones but the last for the Internet, for the moment. We hope to change the latter.
Because Prensky's numbers are relatively old (yes, two years is an eternity when we're dealing with technology), I want to conduct my own study - consequently, I need your input.
  • What is mobile phone access like in your school?
  • What percentage of students have access to mobile phones and would be willing to use them for school activities?
To report your data, either email me directly, or submit your information as a comment to this post. A running total will be kept in this online spreadsheet.

Thanks, in advance, for your input.

Click cartoon to enlarge.

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