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If you can't beat 'em join 'em

Last night our school board had the discussion about cell phones. Let me preface this post by saying these are only my personal opinions and thoughts and not those of my district. Duh, administrators do have minds of their own. Apparently the HS students are getting pretty carried away. They even talked about how they looked for cell phone jamming devices to build into the new HS so kids couldn't use them. This is a violation of some law so that didn't happen.

Isn't texting on cell phones the same thing as writing notes? Oh I bet that comment will stir some emotions. The other features of the cell phone are obviously different. I don't agree with kids taking pictures in locker rooms and then posting them on the internet. Not sure how to win that battle other than just making them aware of the permanence of posting to the web.

I really don't feel like they are using these to be bad so to speak. Great teachers never forget what it was like to be a student and great principals never forget what it was like to be a teacher, and heaven forbid great superintendents forget what it was like to be a principal or in the school all day.

Our district also discussed drug testing which another post/topic for another day. But the point was made to have teachers/staff tested if we are going to require students to be tested. Well, if we are going to limit/ban cell phone usage for the children then shouldn't it be banned/limited for teachers? I do not like my teachers to wear their cell phones. That is a personal preference of mine because if you are wearing your phone you are obviously planning to use it or make a call. During school hours the children are my teacher's number one priority. Yes, they can use it on their planning times, lunch times, and breaks. (Not that teachers get breaks. Don't kid yourself. Teachers work just about every minute of every day.) But there is also a phone in every classroom. So why can't the kids use them on their breaks, planning periods, etc.?

I am not familiar with what the kids are using cell phones for other than keeping in touch with each other because that is what kids do. When I was a kid I talked on the phone all the time. Most of my friends had their own phone in their own room and some even had their own phone line. My parents never went for this. I was so deprived as a child! :)

Ideas for kids with cell phones:
  • I told my teachers they are NOT the cell phone police. It would be very niave of me to think my elementary students do not have cell phones in their backpacks. Most are turned off. Most of the phones elementary kids have are old cell phones their parents have quit using and the kids just play the games on them. Maybe the kids are going to a sleepover after school on Friday night and parents want to be able to contact their kids. Great! Leave the phone in the backpack turned off. No problem. If they do ring or they do have them out. Teachers are to take them and send them to my office and the parents can come pick them up. Only two have come to pick them up because most are old cell phones used for games.
  • Give a designated time for kids to use their phones.
  • Have a cell phone "check in" box in every room. As students come in class put their cell phone in and pick it up on the way out. Maybe to elementary of an idea.
  • Have the kids turn in their cell phone numbers to the teacher or the school. Text your students! Wouldn't they just die?
  • The day of the 'sage on the stage' is over. Walk around the classroom so you can monitor what your kids are doing. I watched a student text with his phone under his leg and not even looking at it. I, of course have to hold my phone up to my face and text one letter at a time and spell every word correctly. I don't know all the text 'short hand.'
If you can't beat 'em join 'em. My hairdresser gets ring tones from the HS kids he does hair for and then bluetooths (is that a word) them to me when I get my hair done. Next school event I am at I will see if any kids will share their ring tones. Choose your battles.

What other suggestions are our there for kids with cell phones, other than to BAN from everything?

7 comments:

  1. What a great topic to post! I am working on a workshop curriculum on this very topic for next year, as is Karen Montgomery (your Missouri AT&T education advocate based in St. Louis.) I have a few links on the following site:

    http://teachdigital.pbwiki.com/cellphones

    Google SMS is the main thing I've seen used so far that kids could use in the classroom. They can get basic facts and statistics from google using the free service (as long as they have enough or unlimited text messages on their phone, Google doesn't charge.) I haven't used this yet with students in a classroom but I hope to next school year.

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  2. Oh, the battles we choose to have. At our school we've decided that phones cannot be in the classroom. I've noticed that most of our teachers have decided not to become cell phone police either. If they disturb class, the phone is taken away. The students are learning to wait until break times to check their messages. I've been in class when students send messages and the teachers doesn't notice. But the flow of the class has not been disturbed (high school) and so there didn't seem to be a need to turn it into a battle. The disturbing trend is that the phone becomes a tool for cheating. One of our students used a phone to surf the net while he wrote an essay exam. We caught another trying to text a friend for answers. I've tried to remind the staff that these "tools" are here to stay in our society. Our role as educators is to show the students appropriate behaviour with them. And that includes the teachers using their phones in the classroom too! All we would win in an all-out war on cell phones is a tremendous headache and workload in enforcement.

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  3. I wrote about this recently. In particular, other uses for cellphones in the classroom.

    http://www.teachinghacks.com/2007/04/24/cellphones-in-education/

    Our district just updated our code of conduct policy. Fortunately, it includes the educational use of these tools in the classroom, as an exception. I wonder how that happened ;-)

    "Schools shall include provisions in their local codes of conduct to ensure that all personal communications devices such as cell phones are powered off and stored out of view in instructional spaces (unless approved by the teacher for program use) and washrooms. Use of these devices in other areas of the school, school property or on school trips shall be determined by the principal following consultation with the CSAC, staff and students and included in the local code of conduct."

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  4. Great post, Melinda. The problem I have with the whole cell phone thing is that with some teachers it becomes about Power and Control. The fact is that some teachers like being the cell phone police because it makes a convenient excuse for why "these kids today" aren't learning anything.

    In the worst case, it ends up becoming an administrative issue because the teacher "ordered" the kid to give him the phone and the kid refused. So we get into a standoff that requires administrative intervention. It's typically the same 4 or 5 teachers who end up in these situations every week so I have started working with them on how they approach students. I have to coach them on the fact that you can't get in the face of a hyper-masculine male -- in front of his friends! -- and tell him to do anything...

    We had a teacher this past year who had a great idea: He had a "cell phone garage" in his classroom. He bought one of those garage organizers with like 40 little compartments and hung it on his classroom wall. He numbered each of the "parking spaces" and students would voluntarily place their phone in their assigned space when they entered the room. He never had a SINGLE problem involving cell phones all year.

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  5. I love the garage idea! There was a news story on last night or the night before about an Arkansas school banning all portable wireless devices. The just don't get it! My iPod has been the most powerful device I have for the past few months. I agree with the "control" issue.

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  6. Agreed. I'm quite tired of it all myself (as you may be able to tell from the tone of my post...). Cell phones (and iPods, and PSPs, and Sidekicks...) are here to stay. Let's stop the griping and do something positive.

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  7. Melinda-
    Just returned from the Palm conference--they suggested doing a "photo scavenger hunt" with the cell phones, or doing a "5 photo story"--no words allowed!
    T. Condren

    PS our new HS principal suggests just telling students (since you know they have them)--put them on your desk. You can see them, they aren't using them to "text" in class, and all is in the open!

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