A problem? with no solution in sight

I have to smile when I think about how I once figured the worst job in education – has now become the best one.  Well, at least the quietest one.

I remember taking Computer Science students on field trips and taking the football team to games.  It was SO noisy.  The stereo in the bus just blared.  I suppose it was good for the football players because they would leave the bus all pumped.  There would also be the inevitable argument about what kind of music would be played.  

Every morning, the dog and I get passed by a school bus and every student (at least on the side of the bus we were) have earbuds or headphones on and their face looking down at their device.  The other day a football team passed us and every player did the same thing.  I suppose the tech savvy coach would have the playbook online so that they could read it on the way to the game.  How’s that for optimistic?

So, it’s generally good news I suspect for the bus driver.  Maybe bad news for the makers of headache pills but there definitely is something that impacts when those students get off the bus and head into school.

I can remember a discussion when cell phones became popular and we discussed how they would impact classrooms.  I remember one person I worked with who wanted an outright ban.  He was convinced that students would provoke teachers to do something unprofessional, another student would catch the action live and post it online.  Certainly, we’ve seem incidents of that but I wouldn’t call it a huge outbreak.  Yet, just one incident is too many.  He was also convinced that the teacher federations would demand a ban on the devices.

I can also remember a keynote speaker at an RCAC Symposium who was talking about technology.  He was a big promoter of it at the time.  I distinctly remember him pulling out an iPhone from his jacket pocket and declaring that he was carrying more power there than many early computers.  Why would we not want that power for our students?  My superintendent at the time copied the message in an address to principals about the same topic.

So we have two very distinct ends to the discussion.  And, we’re no closer to a perfect solution today than we ever were.  Recently, I visited a website of what I consider a very progressive school and they absolutely ban the use of cellphones at school and there are some pretty serious consequences for disobeying these rules.

Similarly, I’ve seen other schools that actively promote the fact that students are invited to bring these devices to school because they can have such a powerful impact on student research and learning.  Students are invited to connect to the school WIFI and to use what they have.

I’ve seen districts where it’s obviously not a universal policy.  One school permits and another one prohibits.  I’ve talked to parents who give the legitimate rationale that they need to be able to contact their child for various reasons and point to the lack of public telephones on school property and the rules against students using school phones.

I’ve also seen the very real conversation about the divide between those students who do have the technology and those who don’t.  Put in the context of productive use and there clearly is an advantage between those that have and those that have not.  Of course, there’s always the ability to purchase recycled technology at a lesser price but that isn’t the best solution in a world where peers judge each other on what they have or what they can afford.  That one never seems to go away either.

Yes, we haven’t got our heads around this yet. 

Recently, I read an article which proposes another solution.

Fed up with nagging, Toronto teacher asks parents’ help confiscating kids’ cell phones

The article does pose some very real analysis of the situation and offers an optional solution with parents’ approval.  I hope that the CBC follows up on the success of this approach.  It might be helpful to others.

Consistency is important.  When you read the story, make sure you read to the very bottom.  The story concludes with an important observation.

One of the solutions that I’ve seen, in the category of compromise, is the “penalty box” approach.  On the student desk, an area about the size of a cell phone is taped off and all phones are to be placed there face down, ringer off.  That’s where the device is to be placed when not in authorized use.  When it is appropriate to use the technology for research or connections, it’s there and easily accessible.  Where the plan slips a bit happens when notifications via vibration or the little LED flashing on the back of a notification occurs.  You know what they say about curiosity and the cat.

The bottom line?  We don’t have a perfect solution as of yet.  There are those who like what they do in their classroom but it still can affect the teacher down the hall who takes a different approach.

Do you have a success story?  How about sharing it?

2 thoughts on “A problem? with no solution in sight

  1. Hi Doug! Always enjoy your thought provoking posts! Would you say the football team on the bus was engaged or disengaged? Connected or disconnected? I believe teachers and adults really need to start questioning their students as to how and why they are connecting and using technology. Should the coach have asked his players to put away the tech and pumped up the tunes? There’s a time and a place for everything…including technology. Here’s my blog post on “The Power of Connections” https://mrcshareseaseblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/am-i-connected/ Not sure if it’s a success story, but it’s my story. Would love to hear your thoughts!


  2. I’m a fan of on the desk, face down, unless we’re using them. That way, it’s a seamless flow when the student wants to use the phone – to make a video, or record an idea, or look up a fact, or…and I can model not picking it up when it buzzes….:)


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