Saturday, November 1, 2008
Ive been thinking about cell phones and zero tolerance policies for quite a while. Asking technology presenters/consultants/evangelists and others how you make this tool work in a zero tolerance culture. I remember David Warlick telling me that in 5 years it wouldn't matter--everyone would demand access to their personal, portable data. I don't have 5 years. I mean, maybe I do, but as a classroom teacher, I have 50 minutes. I have today, yesterday, tomorrow and next week. I want it to work now. Don't you?
I did play Jumbli with my morning students yesterday. We played for the last 15 minutes or so of class. They used 1 cell phone per team to text the words to the game. They were so engaged they jumped up out of their chairs to text words. I think the high score was somewhere in the 500s with one team texting 52 times (in about 15 minutes) compared to my lowly 27 texts messages sent. Jumbli sends each phone a text back saying how many points you score, so it was easy to review the words students sent in and calculate their points after the game.
During lunch I shared the story of the game with an administrator who said that such class use of cell phones makes it very difficult to enforce our "no cell phone" policies. I understand that, but... I've always held onto that "but" in the back of my mind. But can we use them for instructional purposes? But can we....? No, we can't. It's one thing to believe something, quite another to break ranks. We can't send teenagers mixed messages and still achieve consistency school wide.
This week I had two parents talked to me concerned about their teens texting at school to meet friends (or boyfriends or girlfriends) on campus during class. That's a problem. That's a safety issue. Can teaching students digital citizenship solve that safety issue? Does letting them use phones in class muddy the issue? Can building a cultural of responsibility solve it? What do you think?
I understand the administrator's position and the administrator understood mine. We talked about the instructional purpose of the phones in class and about other authentic and instructional uses of cell phones, even. We could see each other's sides, but not compromise. Policy is policy and safety is our number one concern. I get it. The administrator said to finish out the day but not to do it again.
I did not finish out the day letting students use their phones. I did show my afternoon classes the game and we used my phone to text in a few words but it wasn't the vocabulary building free for all of the morning classes, no one jumped out of there seat to find or text a word. Maybe one day we'll figure this one out. Maybe one day, like Warlick said, we'll change school policy. In the meantime, we won't be using cell phones in class. Also, I'm ordering Liz Kolb's new book (2 copies!).