Right off, I am making this clear. I am in no way on either side of this debate. You have probable cause to believe that I would be favouring the “pro” side of things, but I assure I am not. I have my opinions, and I think there are some interesting arguments to be made.
Now the one thing we can both agree on. Cell phones are going to be in your classroom. I don’t care if you are Arnold from Kindergarten cop and you police it 24/7….cell phones are in your class. Students have always needed something to distract them from the classroom. Even when I was in grade 9 we used ti-83 graphing calculators to play battleship and South Park the game, and before that we used Gameboys and Gamegears, and before that we used Tamagotchi’s. You can’t escape the difficulties of student engagement as a teacher.
The only difference between the distracters I listed above and the use of cell phones…is well…everything.
Cell phones are swallowing the world from the inside. Well we can’t even call them cell phones anymore. The iPhone 4s and the Android Galaxy SII are personal computers. They are the true definition of the word. They are a personal computer because they are mobile and they are in our possession all of the time and they contain our friends, bank accounts, schedule, and simply put….our life.
So how do we “control” these personal computers in our school and in our classrooms? Most students have become dependent on technology. They need to feel unique and connected with their friends, and mobile devices enable that very well. I remember IRC when I was in junior high and how I waited all day to go home and hop on to see who was on my schools channel. Then! If you really wanted to have a deep conversation with someone you could private message them. I wouldn’t of imagined being able to bring IRC with me, and not just being able to text people, but go online, watch Youtube, Facebook, tweet, google, listen to music, watch Netflix, read Reddit, Pinterest, and the list goes on. The world is at our fingertips and we need to figure out what to do with it. Bottom line…
So let me break it down. The pros are the following:
School computer labs are worthless. Allowing students to bring in their own technology is the first start in cutting down technology cost.
Students can download just about any text book on their phone. So all those old Pearson science books from 2001…get rid of them.
Students can create videos, PowerPoints, research information, open up files, email you answers, look up online dictionaries and thesaurus’s in a second. So all the “M. Surette? Do you have loose leaf? A pencil or a pen? No need my friend!
Students can post and comment on current events on CBC, Chronicle Herald, Globe and Mail, and other newspaper which is a great social studies component.
Many students have one already.
They can be extremely engaging if used properly.
Students can buzz in their answers to certain questions on a powerpoint giving you instant formative assessment.
Apps are cheap and accessible, and there is a wide variety for all learners.
Now the Cons:
Students become seriously distracted.
Constant texting within class causes drama, bullying, privacy issues and you name it.
They are expensive.
They are hard to upkeep and maintain (I hope your tech guy is keen)
Students often need a lot of guidance on how to use these things properly. They are not tech gurus like you would think. It took me almost 2 weeks to show them all the features iMovie had to offer. Prior to that…they had no sweat idea and hated the ipads.
Keeping all of the ipads locked so students can’t install or delete apps is extremely time consuming.
Keeping all the apps synced and organized on one master computer is extremely time consuming.
Parents texting their kids in class is another issue.
Now I know my list may have more bullets on the pro side. However, the problems I highlighted in the con side are huge problems. I think we can all agree that mobile devices are extremely beneficial and we all want them in our classroom. So here is how I think they should be implemented.
1. Students can bring their devices in class, but they must be in their book bag. If the device comes out during a lecture it’s gone.
2. The wireless in the school should be monitored by the staff and not some technician 100 km’s away. Staffs need to have 100% control over what the students accessing.
3. There needs to be a server in place where students can save and retrieve documents. There also needs to be several printers that are enabled to print from mobile devices.
4. All school devices should be engraved and found in one classroom under the care of one teacher. All app purchases must go through this dedicated person. All iTune cards should be on one sole account put emplace by this teacher.
5. Students will be notified when it is ok to use their personal devices.
6. Social networking is important but should be heavily monitored by the teacher. Allowing Facebook has its benefits but it’s a slippery slope.
7. There should be at least a class set of devices in the school.
8. A wish list should be emailed weekly to the person in charge of the tech. These devices are only as good as the people using them and they should be continuously up to date with the latest apps.
9. Do not allow parents to message their kids in class. Make them call the office. There are enough distractions…we don’t need any more.
10. HAVE PLENTY OF PD ON HOW TO USE THEM!!!!! I SWEAR…… this is my plea as always! These are one of the greatest advancements in education….do not waste them…..they can do such great things and you are so lucky if you have these in your school. Please do the research and do some great stuff with your students! If I see them in your office collecting dust, or only used at recess for angry birds… I don’t I know.
I will post a list later on with some great apps you can use in your classroom. I will give some lessons plans to incorporate them in the classroom.