Drawing the Technological Line at Phones

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First off, this semester in ED 554 has really helped me open my eyes to all the wonderful and enriching opportunities that technology offers to both educators and students. Both inside and outside the classroom, they are tools that can expand learning and engage students with a vast amount of subjects. You’ll never hear me say that technology can’t be integrated as a useful tool.

Using phones, however, is where I draw the line. In his article ‘5 Reasons to Allow Students to Use Cell Phones in Class,’ Michael Soskil provides some examples of why it is important to integrate mobile devices into our educational system. While all the points are valid, I always get a small spark of rage in my chest when people skip over the part or try to diminish the fact that they are an absolute and complete distraction.

Sure, iPad and laptops also hold a significant amount of distractions, but educators can monitor them much easier than when students are allowed to hold a device under their desk and do whatever they please. I find it offensive that somebody would suggest it is completely okay for kids to be texting and posting pictures on instagram instead of listening to my instruction.

I’m sure that Soskil is suggesting that we use them in lessons but let’s be honest, if we allow them to bring it in their pocket and encourage it’s use, they’ll be doing a lot of other things on there. Kids bring their phones to school all the time but once we encourage it, our role as an educator becomes diminished. We won’t have students listening to us.

There are so many alternatives to providing the 21st century skills that Soskil suggests we use mobile phones for. Heck! Iphones and iPads can do almost the exact same thing now!

Here are my five counter arguments to Soskil’s:

1. Again, have them use iPads instead of smart phones! They have all the same capabilities and we can monitor and put more controls on them. They provide the same benefits without the distractions of texting and unregulated social media.
2. Sure, most students might have smart phones, but all won’t. There is no reason to create and emphasize class differences. There are other ways of finding funding for technology than to let students text all day, which they’ll reap no educational benefit from.
3. Again, I’m extremely confused why they can’t use an iPad to achieve Soskil’s point here. Trying to address how mobile collaboration isn’t cheating seems a little pointless. Just don’t give them the opportunity to text their friends asking for answers. If you want group collaboration, have them do it over an iPad.
4. Okay, you’re right. I don’t want my students to feel like there is a double standard when their educator or administration has an iPad. Maybe we need to integrate iPads into a lesson then! Again, I don’t see the need for a mobile device.
5. Again, I’m not refusing them technology. If I want to encourage safe use of technology, I can do that with other tools. Allowing them to access whatever they want and be exposed to various kinds of media and conversations on their phone all day seems counter productive to keeping them “safe.” Don’t you think?

I’m sorry if this came off rudely or others have different opinions. I put my foot down on giving students another reason to be held back educationally which is exactly what allowing full access to cell phones would do.

Breaking the Digital Glass Ceiling

Watch the video below.

This advertisement sponsored by Verizon has been floating around my social media sites for the last few weeks. It has given me something to think about, but after reading Speak Up’s ‘New Digital Learning Playbook,’ it gave me something talk about.

A lot of comments on advertisement have deemed it as a controversial subject. Some people complain that it’s trying to encourage women to be masculine while others are writing that it’s breaking down gender barriers. In my opinion, technology isn’t something that should be divided between genders. These modern skills and interests are new, meaning that in times prior there was no particular gender associated with it. Now that we have advanced and created technologies, there is no reason that it shouldn’t be open to use and development by either gender.

As Speak Up’s report noted, the combination of student technology skill assessment and gender show a clear picture on the ‘genesis of one of the key issues facing our national economy,’ that girls lack interest in STEM careers. As girls advance through their traditional school environment, they show less interest in technology skills and see them as average, where as boy’ opinion of their technology skills advance. 

Is there something that is diminishing their interests in STEM fields? It sounds like it. Is it necessarily because of gender related reasons. It might not be. As a society, however, we need to make sure that we aren’t holding them back from their possible digital interests and potential. We need to encourage and support both genders into becoming twenty first century learners as well as consumers, heck, and maybe even producers!

As educators, we need to make sure that we aren’t stereotyping when providing technological opportunities to our students in terms of projects, group interactions, etc. We should never assume that I student wouldn’t want to do something because of their gender. The playbook provides ‘approaches’ to engage girls in STEM fields, which sound great, but shouldn’t be something that is forced either!

I believe providing equal opportunity for student engagement with technology and providing a supportive environment is essential! As a society, we need to make sure that we aren’t gender-labeling the advances that occurred in the last couple decades!

 

Podcasting as a Classroom Project

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Creating a Fearless Classroom, a podcast interviewing Joli Barker, asserted that fear inhibits growth in the classroom. Barker suggests that extinguishing fear in education is a three-fold process.

  1. First, students have to learn to approach learning fearlessly. Teacher should teach in a way that eliminates the fear of only one answer being the correct one. Students should feel free to explore materials from different angles.
  2. Secondly, teacher shouldn’t be afraid of an educational mistake going viral. Taking risks allows different learning experiences for students. We all stumble but how we recover from a mistake says more about our abilities than never talking that risk at all.
  3. Lastly, fear tactics should never be used to gain compliance. Comments such as “if you don’t do this you won’t pass your SOL” immediately block students from receiving any further information.

Overall, the podcast had valuable information and good things to keep in mind…however…

I have a love-hate relationship with podcasts. I believe that they hold a lot of valuable information but they just don’t engage me very well. I’m a visual learner. Even watching a Ted Talk where I can engage with the expression on the presenter’s face is more beneficial to me than listening to people talk back and forth. It is easier for me to start making a mental to do list, check my phone, or notice areas of the room that need to be cleaned.

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So, how can I use them? It’s definitely a tool that I can explore further, but one idea did cross my mind! Could it be a means of reinforcing learning in my elementary school classroom? Students could create a classroom podcast based on what their learning as a way of reflectio. It could be used to keep parents up to date on what students are doing in the classroom or to help students who are absent catch up on the work that they missed!

It might not be extremely beneficial in terms of my learning, but that doesn’t mean listening to them or creating one doesn’t appeal to my students’ learning strengths. This is a tool I should keep in mind!

Waiting for Rain in the Valley of Death

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In his Ted Talk, Ken Robinson portrays a humorous account of the irony behind the American educational system, especially the No Child Left Behind Act. Between students dropping out and having kids in school who aren’t really benefiting from it, we are leaving millions of children behind. We are spending millions of dollars on education but it’s all going in the wrong direction. He goes on to share that there are three things that nourish human life, none of which are being implemented in our school systems. He shares amazing points and provides a great sense of urgency…but sadly it doesn’t change the issue.

There are three principles on which human life flourishes, and they are contradicted by the culture of education under which most teachers have to labor and most students have to endure. –Sir Ken Robinson

Unfortunately, there are a lot of different people talking about education reform and not a lot being done about it. Honestly, it all sounds like one big hype and lately has been leaving me feeling a little hopeless. Will there be a day in my teaching career where the tables turn and my students have more educational freedoms? Will I be holding out for a day that never comes?

At the end of his talk, Robinson offers an image of hope. He compares the education system to Death Valley, the hottest and driest place in America. Nothing grows there because it doesn’t rain. In the winter of 2004, however, the valley say seven inches of rain and in the spring of 2005, the entire floor of the valley was covered in flowers for a short time. It turns out that the valley isn’t dead; it’s dormant. He compares this to the American education system. It has seeds of possibility but it’s waiting for the right conditions to support it.

The thing is…I’m really distraught thinking about waiting for this rain cloud to roll in. In most of my blog posts I write about being an innovative teacher in spite of all the obstacles and restrictions placed on the classroom. At what point though does it become too much to overcome?

Robinson makes a powerful point when he says that education doesn’t occur in the room of a legislative committee. It occurs in the classroom. Without teacher and student discretion the system stops working.

I believe in being a teacher. I believe in learning. I believe in creativity. I believe in change. I’ll do what ever I have to do to support my school, fight for my students, and make a difference in my community. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m going to be silent. Things need to change.

Watch Robinson’s talk for yourself! I hope it fuels your motivation to get involved in the conversation and fight as much as it did for me!

 

Developing a Classroom Library Made Easy!

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I’ve been moseying around Pinterest since I started graduate school and have started following several different educational blogs. Yes, some more professional than others, but I really like the ones written by teachers themselves. They share activities they’ve done, classroom management tips, organization ideas and so much more. Their blogs feel more genuine and provide a little more inspiration than some others!

Since I’m considering teaching younger-aged elementary students, I’ve fallen in love with a blog called Kinder Kraze. One of the teachers I was observing last week told me the benefit of having a strong classroom library, and I got a little overwhelmed. How much does that cost? She said that thrift stores are a great option to get books. That got me thinking…how do I know which books are in my students’ reading level. Ironically, I then came across a post on Kinder Kraze titled, ‘Tools to Help Level Your Classroom Library.’

One of my favorite resources that she suggested is the ‘Scholastic Book Wizard’ application. I registered for a free account and actually went and tested it out today! It’s super easy! You just scan the bar code on the book and all the information is provided to you including grade and reading levels. You can even store books in your phone to have a digital copy of your library! Below is a picture showing the process!

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Again, I love reading blogs that come directly from teachers because they share the inside secrets that you just won’t get anywhere else! Check out some other tools for developing and maintaining a classroom library here!