This post is part of a back and forth conversation between a friend and fellow blogger and I. Both of us are in the education field. His email addressed two concersn: 1) students who question teachers and other adults about why adults are allowed to do certain things when students are not: Teacher: *Checks email on smartphone Student: “Hey, why can you have a phone and we can’t?” Their is no solution to this issue that can be handled by anyone but the person raising them. It is disrespect and failure to know a child’s place in society. I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on that topic because I think it is moot. Parents and other adults have muddied the boundaries between children and adults. Sometimes in an effort to “reach” them, sometimes to live vicariously through their children, and sometimes there is no leadership at home and students become the “parents” in a way – the head of household.
The second part questioned the crackdown on personal technology use by students. My response to that part is the heart of this post.
On the second part, my position is that our struggle with technology is due to our own ignorance. We don’t understand its power so we regulate it. In a few short years the entire delivery system for education is going to change and at that point some of us will be ready to get on the bus and some will be left at the stop. Those who insist that pencils and text books are the most important things that we purchase will assuredly be left behind.
From a management perspective, I have always been a proponent for teacher’s managing the content that student’s view. Some districts have wide open internet access for students. The teacher’s are then responsible to know what students are doing in the classroom. That’s just good management. It’s foolhardy to believe that students aren’t accessing illicit content on their smartphones if that is what they want to do. I say that because in our district the biggest argument against personal technology use is that if we allow student to use devices with 3G capability, we have no way to control what they access. Since it is impossible to tell some 3G devices from devices that are just Wi-Fi enabled, we ban them all. That goes full circle to my first point. Our fear will continue to hold us back.
As we move towards project based learning, it is going to be more and more important that students have access to the tools they need. As well, they will need to be proficient in using those tools. As we know, the tools change quickly. So quickly that schools can’t possibly keep up. Students though are at the cutting edge of technology. They get new phones every other year and most households now own a tablet device of some sort. My opinion is that we should be welcoming these devices for the benefit of our students as well as our schools.
I think you know my stand on educational technology, but let me enlighten others who will read this blog. I teach in a school in Virginia that is far ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. Our elementary schools us portable iTouch labs to create and explore. Our middle school and high school students have access to portable iPad labs to use online textbooks and interactive websites in class. My alternative Ed students use laptops and an online education program to recover credits and graduate on time.
I am lucky to have a plethora of professional development opportunities to advance my knowledge in educational technology. It is the future of education. Anyone – administrators, school board members, teachers, parents – who balk at the use of technology in schools are already behind the 8-ball. Refusal to change school policies will keep students from advancing in the 21st century.
I think you’re dead on, Jeff. In addition to our lack of knowledge leading to us putting up walls, fear is another factor. Many of our institutions in education (and elsewhere) operate with the specter of fear looking over us. We’re afraid that something will go wrong, and the potential consequences outweigh benefits in our mind. We forget, however, that regardless of our input, or lack thereof, students will be using these tools. Better to guide them into understanding the strengths and weaknesses.
I’m reading a book right now on the use of Facebook and Twitter by schools and educators, which is really impacted by the fear factor. Educators are afraid that negative responses will come from our audience, and therefore we shy away from providing parents and the community the opportunity. Once again, however, the community will be using these tools to discuss our work and classrooms We can be proactive and participate, or hide our heads in the sand and pretend these community discussions don’t exist.
Sometimes educators feel overwhelmed and find that it’s just easier not to deal with technology. It’s easier not to worry about what Johnny might be accessing on his smartphone, so we ban him from using it. If we stop potential problems from occurring by stopping students from using new technologies, we make life easier for ourselves. Unfortunately, that’s not our job. The tools exist and will be used… and we need to step up to the plate and guide our students.
Ironically, the current concerns are essentially the same ones previous educators faced with their own burgeoning technologies. Would calculators be misused? Would students email their friends if we allowed them to use computers? New technologies bring new challenges but are part of the landscape. They bring real opportunities if we’re willing to be part of the learning process.
Thanks for being willing to post your thoughts, Jeff.