9 04 2009

“It’s about relationship, it’s about community, it’s about connectivity, it’s about access.” -Greg Whitby

How many teachers today would agree with this statement in regards to education?  The number one hot topic of choice for most employers when hiring deals with relationships.  When I was hired for my first job as a teacher, my principal said, “it is clear that you and I will get along because you are so focused on building relationships.”

I gotta admit, building community and relationships are the reason I got involved in teaching and the same reasons I still teach today.  In order to properly build relationships, it is vital to connect with your audience.   For myself this exchange evolves constantly.  A more recent tool I’ve implemented in my daily routine a school is to greet everyone of my students at the door with a handshake.  This simple gesture builds a connection very literally and at the same time gives students a chance to check in with me on a personal level and creates a sense of belonging, or community.  And if my students are late, they don’t get access to a hand shake that day.  Seems simple, but this tool for engagement, motivation, and accountability carries a lot of weight.  Now if we apply this same model to students ability to access the new Web 2.0 tools, social networking sites, and empower our students through “edutainment” it seems like we have a formula for success that no one would disagree with.
In the same video mentioned before, Learning to Change Changing to Learn, another gentlemen Stephen Heppell, describes the new space that learning takes place in, “nearly now.”  This is the space that exists in texting, twitting, and Facebook.  It is a space that is non-synchronous but nearly.  It allows for multiple ideas to be shared all at the same time.  It allows students to work in a non-judgmental, pressure free, no time limit environment which fosters a softer approach to learning, a true 21st Century value.  It allows for students to engage, evaluate, research, create, and share.  Where a traditional education approach doesn’t draw on student to share very often, this “nearly now” space gives students that opportunity to respond when there ready.  As teachers we talk about “wait time.”  Wait time is the time you must wait to allow students proper time to evaluate, remember, and synthesize a response to a question.  “Nearly now” is essentially wait time.

So, if these tools exist, and our children’s future ride on the idea that the careers they will enter likely do not exist today, then how can we as educators be so limited in our approach to learning?  How can we ban cell phones in schools?  We didn’t have these phones growing up but we are “Digital Immigrants” living in a “Digital Native” world. (Prensky, 2001).   Most arguments in regards to immigration eventually lead to a discussion about assimilation.  Well, how come we spent nearly 45 minutes of a staff meeting talking about repercussion and consequences for students carrying cell phones at school?  And why do we then punish students for building community?  And is it that we are afraid that they aren’t paying attention?  Or are we just illiterate to the world in which students are now living in?  Why do we build firewalls that block information?  Are we afraid that too much information is a bad thing?  If we refuse to adjust to these tools are we then choosing to fall to the way of the dinosaur?

As educators we need to put away our old notions of simply learning from the book and lecture style.  We may not exactly have the key to this problem or even know how to unlock the possibilities, but by embracing the revolution we will emerge stronger, more prone to learning in a non-linear fashion, and filling a reservoir of hope instead of fear.

I love the way Heppell puts it.  This new paradigm in learning represents, “the death of education, and the dawn of learning.”

Learning to Change Changing to Learn Advancing K-12 Technology Leadership, Consortium for School Networking(COSN)


Prensky, Marc. (2001). On the Horizon; Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants .  MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5




6 responses

9 04 2009
Amy White

Hey, Seann,
I totally agree with you! If I have to sit through one more “what are we going to do about cell phones” faculty meeting… Found this blog online and I liked it. She says it better than I can.

9 04 2009

I love the quote “the death of education, and the dawn of learning”. I wish admins would realize that most of these students have a mini- computer in their cell phone with access to the internet. I have an iphone and everyday I am amazed at new applications and ways to use it. Everyone will have a phone like this in the next couple of years. Instead of banning them, we need to embrace them and use them for learning

Can you create links to the place and people that you are referencing? They are great references, but it should be easy for us to click from your page and find out more about them.

10 04 2009
Joe Jarvis

Seann, you stole my post. We just had the same staff meeting. “We” as a staff just decided that the cell-phone rule was going to be enforced the same in everyone’s classrooms, with zero tolerance. “We” asked for full support from our administration who made announcements everyday the week prior to rolling out this new plan. The “we” I refer to are the loud veterans who are petrified of becoming irrelevant. Read the blog post that I will be publishing tomorrow, it is almost done. I think we were separated at birth. Still working on RR tix.

11 04 2009

And again, it’s the same at my school. I am approaching my building principal before the end of the school year to ask permission to run a study. I want to use cell phones, social networking and other Web 2.0 tools to teach. I want to prove to Administration that these tools aren’t EVIL.

Very good blog post, Seann. I enjoy reading them!

12 04 2009

Fear is the compelling force behind the stranglehold on information access and blocking anything that might remotely involve technology. Fear that the educational paradigm as it is will become nonessential and extinct thereby eliminating the role of the teacher. The educational paradigm of yesterday is already extinct. It is time to move forward and adjust the role of the teacher from information disseminator to information facilitator.

A handshake as they enter–what a fabulous way to start the class, Seann!

17 04 2009
Mike Wiseman

Seann, I thought you might like looking at this article as well. It backs up a lot of what you were talking about.

Do you think that teachers that are opposed to cell phones in the classroom are afraid of distractions from education, or do you think that it is the inability to learn how to master the new technology for the purpose of education? I have found that nine times out of ten, the road of resistance is paved in ignorance. If more teachers would see that the technology would actually help them and not hurt them, then more opportunities for using this Web 2.0 tool would be approached and approved in the classroom. Great post!

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