What If (PowerPoint) and What If (mp3) - download to same folder for music to play
What If (Windows Media Player)
What If (Google Video)
What If Sources (Word, PDF)
When teachers returned this fall we received an email with this sign as an attachment and a suggestion that we print and post if we wanted.
Turn off and put away all Cell Phones, iPods, and Electronic Devices during class!Shortly thereafter many of these signs popped up outside and inside classrooms.
Now, let me preface the rest of what I’m going to say with this clear message: I understand the intent behind this. I understand that cell phones, iPods and other devices can be a distraction in class. I understand that students can use them inappropriately and they can be disruptive to the learning process. I understand that we’re just trying to be clear and up-front about our expectations that this is a learning environment and that students should be focused on the learning. I also understand that there was no evil intent behind creating or posting the sign, and that the folks that posted it are interested in what’s best for our students.
Having said that, you won’t be surprised that I was disappointed by those signs. I think there were better ways to address these issues with our students (like talking with them), instead of posting an over-generalized and impersonal “thou shalt not” declaration. I think we can talk with our students about these issues – explain why we feel this way – and the vast majority of them will agree with us and not use these devices inappropriately.
By posting these signs, we not only setup an “us versus them” mentality, but we force not only our students but our teachers to violate the rule. We already have teachers and students using iPods in classes – appropriately (background music, music for presentations, video presentations on iPods played through an LCD projector) – not to mention that they can also be used as portable hard drives. Are they supposed to stop now?
And what about cell phones? We give all of our students a student calendar and tell them it is a crucial tool to help them keep track of their assignments and be successful at AHS. What if a student wants to use the calendar program built into many of their cell phones to help them keep track of stuff? Or what if they want to text message themselves – or their email accounts – with a reminder or some notes about an assignment? Or what if they want to use the calculator or memo features built into a lot of cell phones? Should we tell them not to?
And “electronic devices?” Can we agree that’s a little bit of an overreach? Does that mean they – and their teachers – can’t use the computer and LCD Projector in each classroom? What about the VCR or overhead projector? What about their watches? Or probes in science? Or other equipment in Tech Ed? What if the Vice President comes to visit (as has happened before at AHS) – is he supposed to leave his pacemaker at the door? I know, I know, they didn’t mean those things (and I’m guessing we’d make an exception for the Vice President if he did come to visit), but we need to be careful about the words we use. If we’re going to make a blanket statement about something, we better make sure it’s accurate and says what we mean. This does not.
Instead of posting those signs, could we not have a discussion with our students and staff about appropriate use of technology? There are very real issues that we as teachers are struggling with that are much more deserving of our attention than a sign that I don’t think actually accomplishes anything – at least not anything good. As we’ve seen on numerous other blogs, many of our students are more than willing to spend time thinking and discussing important issues, why not involve them instead of dismissing them?
As I was thinking about whether to blog about this or not, it reminded me of something I had read previously. I finally tracked down the book I was thinking of by David Thornburg. It had a section on resistance to technological change in education that I remembered liking, so I used some of those items, as well as some of my own experiences, to create another presentation for my staff.
The intent of this is not to disparage folks who put up the signs or have concerns over the impact technology is having in education, but to spur more discussion and conversation about these issues. Like the Did You Know presentation, it’s another example of David Warlick’s Telling the New Story - although, in this case, it’s more like telling the same ‘ole story. I wanted to share this story with them so we can have an open and honest conversation about how to deal with these issues in a time of rapid change. I don’t think that change is going to stop occurring, in fact, I believe it is going to accelerate – so how do we deal with that? I think one way to deal with that is to talk about it and to leverage the tools however we can to help students learn, not issue blanket statements banning their use.
So the following presentation is intended to start those conversations among my staff – our next staff development session is this Friday. I hope they take it in the way it’s intended (and I hope I’ve made it clear how it’s intended), but we’ll see. Because it’s out here on the blog, I know some other folks will probably take a look as well. As with Did You Know, you are welcome to use it or modify it in any way you see fit if you think it will help with conversations in your schools – or elsewhere. I don’t think it will generate as much interest as the previous presentation, but then again I didn’t think Did You Know would either. If you have thoughts to share, please comment or, if you do use it or modify it, I’d love to hear how you modified it or how it went.
As before, there is a PowerPoint and an mp3 file – you’ll want to download them to the same folder to have the music play correctly in the PowerPoint. Having learned my lesson from the last time, I’m also posting a Windows Media Player version and a list of my sources. On a Windows machine, right-click and choose Save Target As. On a Mac with a one-button mouse, ctrl-click and choose Save Target As.
What If (mp3)
What If (Windows Media Player)
Here's a Google Video Version