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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