Yesterday the Twin Cities Daily Planet published an interesting story on cell phones in the classroom. Reporter Sheila Regan had done an informal poll of teachers about how they feel about phones in the classroom. Most of them seemed to hate it – and I quote the use of hate. But a couple embraced the use…
Not all teachers and professors are against phones. TC Daily Planet’s Arts Editor Jay Gabler, who also teaches at the college level at Macalester and other places, says as long as his students are sufficiently engaged when they need to be, he’s fine with them using their phones, and he actively encourages laptops and tablets.
Other teachers embrace the technology. Renate Fiora, a physics teacher at Orono Senior High, tries to teach good technology etiquette, rather than just banning them, and says she actually gets more comprehensive answers from her students via text than she does with pen and paper. She also uses apps such as Poll Everywhere, and gives assignments in which students have to find a video example of the physics concept under discussion, and share its link to a Google Document. She gives quizzes with Google Forms, and shares links with her students using QR codes.
“I feel it’s important because it is a powerful tool and one that’s not going away,” Fiora said. “If we just ignore them and ban them, then kids will continue to use them for trivial uses. By using them in class, we get to show them the depths their devices can go, show the devices as the tools they are, and finally teach them proper etiquette while using them. ”
Last year, she called a student out for having her phone out and using it, and the student responded by showing the new video she had found of the physics tech Fiora had been talking about in class. “That was awesome. I had her email me the link so I could show the whole class.” Fiora said.
It’s an interesting question and picks up on a conversation I happened to have with someone yesterday about education and smartphones. The gist of the conversation – smartphones have changed how we access information. We now have a world of facts at our fingertips. The question we had – are we doing students a disservice to continue to focus on memorized facts or is this an opportunity to focus on higher order thinking?
Another question, if we are living in a world of distractions are we doing students a disservice to teach them in a cloistered environment? Or would they be better served learning to focus in a chaotic world?
Yet another, who is better served with the no phone policy – the teachers or the students? I’ve taught in rooms where folks seem to be online the whole time and it’s not as much fun as back when you had everyone’s rapt attention – but like the teacher’s story above, I’ve often found that the students were engaged in the topic – not distracted – as they went online. It wasn’t the student who needed to understand the role of the phone, it was me.
It will be fun to see what other folks think about phones in the classroom.