Sunday, May 28, 2017

Cell Phones, Yay or Nay

Recently I proctored our state test in a 8th grade classroom. I have spent 12 years as a primary teacher and have had few opportunities to support our junior high teachers, so this was an experience. Of course before testing cell phones were collected and the students did this without any hesitation. I guess I expected there to be some push back, but they willingly wrote their name on a sticky and attached it to their phones. After testing, they received them back and proceeded to check for "important" messages while on a recess. 

It makes me wonder what the school's policy is with student cell phones and as I type this, I'm thinking of touching base with the principal just to know more. I don't believe the teachers at this site embrace them and encourage the students to use them with the content they are learning, but I could be wrong. I left this classroom thinking of the educational possibilities with student devices and even sent a text to a colleagues stating that I would "soo have a charging station in my classroom!" I'm not sure how realistic that is, or what kind of issues that would cause, but it would definitely be something I would try. #DontJudgeMe

I don't personally know any teachers who use student devices to support their teaching. So, I reached out to my PLN on Twitter and G+ with a Google Form. I wanted to know more about the policies at different schools and was interested in the opinions of teachers who have to support the policies. I was fortunate to have one response from Mr. Grant Hardy. I appreciate the time he took to answer my questions and for his support with this project.

Mr. Hardy is a high school teacher who works at a site that does allow students to have personal devices on campus. Below are the responses to my questions.

Explain your school's policy on students having personal devices in the classroom, or on campus. 
Cell phones are to be used with teacher permission only.
What are the reasons you might agree, or disagree with the school's policy? 
Agree that they can become a distraction to some students. 
Disagree that they cannot be used effectively by students to enhance their learning.
How do parents feel about the policy and in what ways, if any, do they support it?
They agree, however many think that they are disrupting their child's learning.
How do you manage devices so that they are used for educational purposes?
I allow students to have their devices on their desk. They can check them if they need to. If they have it in their hand for more than 10 seconds then I know they are not using them correctly. (Students all have their own laptop devices with them) I find that if a student is not thinking about what notification popped up, they will be more focussed on their learning. Students are trusted to use their integrity and not use them to message others in other classes in school. This high trust model works well with most students. I have less issues than other teachers in the school and the students respond well.
Describe a project or lesson you have done while engaging students with their devices.
Online quizzes
Instructional videos created by students (PE and Science)
Some student lack the ability to write down their process in an experiment. Most can articulate themselves well whilst being filmed. This works especially well with the more exuberant young male students.
What challenges (technical and policy related) do you face with this topic?
My cell phone rules go against some of the school rules. This can cause other staff members issues when a student explains my rules. I am currently working with all school teaching staff and admin staff trying to make positive changes with technology. I am sharing my ideas and findings.
Throughout this week, after connecting with Mr. hardy and engaging in discussions online with other educators, it seems this is quite the hot topic. I go back and forth with what I "think" I would do if I was a middle/high school teacher, but I really don't know until I would have to deal with it. I can see both points of view about cell phones being a distraction and how they can be used as a learning tool. It goes back to the culture of the classroom and school and if students see the teachers as working with them. Unfortunately we live in a society where phones are never too far from reach and it is very difficult for kids and adults to completely give their attention to one thing. There's a time and a place for them, and if we work with  the students, I would hope there would be a mutual respect and compliance with the expectations.
I feel that I might take the approach of Mr. Hardy. He allows students to have their phones out and can check when necessary, although, it seems there is a clear understanding that if the students abuse that policy they are showing they can't be trusted. Mr. Hardy's "high trust model" treats students with respect and acknowledges them as individuals, just as we adults expect to be. I commend Mr. Hardy and wish him the best of luck as he aims to work with the admin and staff to join a common ground. 

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