Monday, April 30, 2007

iPods, Cell Phones in School

Today's News Tribune reports the Federal Way School District is considering a ban on the use of all cell phones and music devices (e.g., iPods). According to the article, a draft put forward by district principals falls short of banning electronic devices from elementary, middle and high school campuses. So far the district's five high school principals are recommending the devices not be in sight or operated during school hours, the paper noted. In neighboring districts, the policies range from allowing them (with the threat of removal if they're found to be disruptive) to only allowing them at the high school.

From the principal's perspective, when is this technology appropriate for students to have in school? How does your school handle the use of cell phones? And are cell phones different from iPods or other MP3 players? Should there be separate policies for these devices?

And how can schools use iPods to enhance the educational process?


Jeff Allen said...

Related story... the other day I came across this article about how a school in Meridan, Idaho has imposed a ban on all digital music players in the school because students were using them to cheat on tests.

"Using the devices to cheat is hardly a new phenomenon, Shana Kemp, spokeswoman for the National Association of Secondary School Principals said. However, sometimes it takes awhile for teachers and administrators, who come from an older generation, to catch on to the various ways the technology can be used."

OK.... Stop for a sec.... please think.....

Do the kinds of tasks we are asking students to do on a test lend themselves to be easily "cheatable"? If the assessment is asking a student to do little more than recall information, then an iPod could easily be used to store and recover that information... a "cheatable moment".

What if we were using assessments that asked students to access and use information to create a new idea, or solve a problem in an innovative way that demonstrates that they can THINK!?

I appreciate the challenges that administrators have with respect to managing our schools and maintain an effective/orderly learning environment; however, we need to honestly examine what a 21st Century learning environment looks like. Until we do, we are going to continue to run into this wall as long as we have 2.0 students attending 1.0 schools.

Gary Kipp said...

Thanks, Jeff, for refocusing us on the right issue. Certainly developing good policies for managing the disruptions caused by iPods and cell phones is appropriate to consider. Jeff reminds us, however, that if cheating is our concern, simple answers, not iPods, are the problem.

As long as we ask students for simple answers, a few will find simple ways to retrieve them, from the bill of their cap, the palm of their hand, their neighbor's paper, or their iPod. Real learning is uncovered with questions that require thinking. Thanks for the reminder, Jeff.

Shelly Lisoskie, M. Ed. said...

I agree with Jeff. In the 25 years I've been in education and industry, I've seen us go from the Apple IIGS ("the computer that will change the face of American education") to iPods and Smartphones. As my mentor at Seattle U. once said, the one constant in education is change...

When my dad was teaching in the 1970's, these very expensive things called calculators were introduced. He bought one right away because he saw how much more quickly he'd be able to process his grades! His Principal, however, told him to keep it out of the classroom because it would "give the kids the wrong idea" and make them think they could use one too. The price soon came down from $300 to $50, then $25 and now you can get the same basic calculator on a keychain for $1.99! Calculators are a part of school life, like laptops have become. If students are going to cheat, they are going to find a way. We need to ensure that they don't want to or feel the need to cheat, that they wouldnt' be able to because the assessments are more valued and valuable, and we also need to grow and change with our customers, the students.

Time to join the 21st century. There's not a one of my instructors who doesn't have an iPod like device to listen to Podcasts for professional development purposes. And their students do the same, just not during a lesson :)