Articles like this one always interest me, not only because I’m from PEI (this article could easily have come from any school board in North America), but because it never ceases to amaze me how far off the mark people are.
The decisions we make about technology use in our classrooms fascinate me. Apparently, I once wrote a letter that ended up being read on TV about cell phone use in schools… I don’t really remember writing it, but I keep running into people who remember its readying. But that’s just how much these kinds of things catch my eye. Anyway, today’s tragedy:
“As of Thursday, the first day of the new school year, students [in PEI's Western School Board, where I went to school] won’t beallowed to use cellphones, cameras, palm pilots or MP3 players in anyclassroom.”
Know what they do use quite a bit in the classroom, though? TVs. It’s really easy to control what’s going on with a TV. Much easier than trying to control what kids are doing with their MP3 players. It’s easy to see how the newly banned technologies can become problematic–kids love them way more than any tool in the typical classroom. But why aren’t we jumping on that? Why aren’t we finding ways to use phones and MP3 players constructively in classes?
If we focus on MP3 players for a second, what about all the valuable podcasts that are out there? And now that even cheap nanos have video… Couldn’t that be pretty neat and useful? And doesn’t giving kids the chance to learn about the issues they’re passionate about using the media they’re most comfortable with make sense?
Cellphones are a more complex argument. In my mind, they’re about 90% distraction with a 10% chance for good, right now, and the potential for good is made more complex than necessary by Canada’s strange cell phone pricing schemes.
Then we come to cameras. That just straight up confuses me. There are so many cool ways to engage kids with photography… I know, I know, I’m basing this all off a very short and vague article, and the actual policy is probably very complex with all sorts of sanctioned exceptions to the ban… but the concept that cameras aren’t welcome in the classroom just shocks me.
And then we have palm pilots… In my mind, this is akin to banning laptops. And rather than getting into all the problems I have with that, I’ll just leave it lie (but point to the next paragraph on distractions that kids will have to learn to deal with anyway)…
There are some big issues there–well, two. Equity and distraction. Gadgets are a big distraction, for everyone. And kids will eventually be adults who need to know how to deal with the blackberries and cell phones and other various beeping doo-dads and whatnots that will be thrown at them. Banning them, while definitely easier, seems like a pretty black-and-white solution to a situation that is quite a bit more complex.
Equity is a bigger issue. If MP3 players or any other gadget were to become an integral part of the classroom, everyone would need access, and the price points are still too high for a lot of people (and schools). But banning them seems like a good way of nipping the equitable access talk in the bud.
In fairness, I’m almost always opposed to banning anything, anytime. And the integration of technology into the classroom is the basis of my livelihood. But I just don’t see how banning technology is making learning better for students.