Give the kid your cellphone number!

22 10 2009

Photo 19

Most people would consider giving students your cell phone number an easy open door for students to enter and mess with your private life.  Why would any teacher in their right mind encourage phone calls from their students?  Isn’t it a little idealist to think that teenagers won’t abuse your privacy?

These questions certainly raise a lot of fear for many.  Those unfamiliar with the practice of increased connectivity see their lives as over whelmed already.  No wonder then that those teachers complain about their contract hours for work and pay, feel no obligation to reach students outside of the normal contract hours.  One teacher recently said, “that’s nice to give up your family and home time to your students, but what’s next, charging for contact time outside of the normal office hours like lawyers do?”

These same fears are what limit the capacity of education to move at the speed of 21st Century professionals in the free market.  Most teachers in fact don’t feel connected what so ever to the free market and this may truthfully be the key.  Teachers are very concerned these days about test scores and a Darwinian way of educating.  This could be seen as market driven but the reality is that this lessens motivation, engagement, and relationships.  In order for education to move into a new paradigm and in order to prepare our students for the work place demand of jobs yet to be created, teachers themselves need to think like those who work in the market.

In the 1990’s increased productivity brought the stock market to new highs.  Whatever, whenever, wherever technologies allowed huge growth to translate into huge profits.  Multitasking and collaborative efforts lead to more transmission of content knowledge and on wider spread platforms.  Increased connectivity leads to better students, with deeper knowledge, and problem solvers ready at all times for any challenge.  President Obama even announced that teaching contact days should be increased and a move to year round schools would benefit students’ nation wide.  This is increased connectivity.  Teachers must learn from this.

Plans to spur learning are already under way.  Across the nation pioneers still exist.  Many of these pioneers are being armed with the latest tools of human gadgetry are displaying these ideas not in the boardroom but in the classroom.  These teachers are realizing the potential of increased literacy based around a new ideal of literacy where media is seen as a guide to open up the ears, eyes, and souls of students.  The written word is considered as valuable as ever.  More important than test scores, students and teachers are working together to build relationships with a shared vision and understanding.  Compassion and open communication are allowing for a new understanding of a Global community based around democracy and user filtered content.  For those teachers willing to think like a businessman, there is a whole world of wealth and knowledge being explored.  When teachers allow students to call them or instant message them about a homework problem, contact time increases, student productivity is ensured, and relationships are fastened.





Wake Up Call!

14 10 2009

With all this talk of Web 2.0 tools, cellphones, and innovative teaching through increased technology, what connections can we draw to the health attributes of increased Electromagnetic Frequencies (EMFs)?  Just went out and bought the latest iPhone?  Looking to stay in touch with the kids with a network family mobile cell plan?  Attempting to bring cellphones in the classroom as a learning tool?  Before you jump to any rash conclusions, think about the biological impacts that EMFs are already playing in our world.  Although there are a lot of folks who still think the jury is still out on this topic, there are many who think cellphones and EMFs are increasing brain tumors and cancers world wide.

With all this information out there, what do you think?  Are we headed towards a new national health care crisis?  Are the effects of EMFs real?  Are we just waiting in purgatory for the final judgment?  Or is this whole thing just the latest scare designed to get us to go back to nature, give up our technologies?  Or even more, is this a ploy to get us to buy new devices to eliminate or filter a possible but not certain threat of cancer?  Should teachers be requiring young kids to use cellphones in class knowing about EMFs?  Should parents give their students cell phones knowing about EMFs?

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“Who wants to be a Millionaire?” Quiz Rules

4 10 2009

This week’s World History through film class, an elective course, brought the first time implementation of “Who wants to be a millionaire?” quiz rules to Basalt High School.  I presented to idea to kids the week prior to the quiz when I also gave them the quiz review.  The rules are as follows:

20 Questions, Multiple Choice

1 Phone a friend, either one person from class or a family or friend outside of school.

1 Ask the audience where the class together votes on one question to talk about as a class.  Hence the class is the audience.

1 50/50, where the class chooses one question that I break down to a 50/50 chance.

The idea was not one that I can take credit for.  Learning to bring this type of innovation and motivation to the kids can be credited to a school in Australia, Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Croydon, where students are allowed to phone a friend and use ipods and the internet on exams.  The idea is in the pilot stages for the grade 9 English classes.   And in fact the idea came through a challenge by Marc Prensky, educational consultant and web 2.0 educational specialist.

Prensky said, “What if we allowed the use of mobile phones and instant messaging to collect information during exams, redefining such activity from ‘cheating’ to ‘using our tools and including the world in our knowledge base’?

“Our kids already see this on television. ‘You can use a lifeline to win $1 million,’ said one. ‘Why not to pass a stupid test?’ I have begun advocating the use of open phone tests … Being able to find and apply the right information becomes more important than having it all in your head.”

As a teacher in Colorado, this idea made since for me.  I want to increase student engagement and encourage problem solving skills as much as knowledge content.  The example of the phone a friend was made dully applicable this week in my own professional life as I went to my principal for a question regarding a particular professional pedagogic phrase.  When my boss couldn’t recall the phrase, what do you think he did?  That’s right, he phoned a friend, his wife.  This was exactly what I was trying to show my kids that they could accomplish through collaborative cultures and here was a real life example of this needed skill happening right at the same time I was implementing this new look at test taking.   The students ended up really liking the idea.  The conversation went deeper.  Students, felt more confident with the help of others, and they learned a true life problem solving skill.  This isn’t a way to cheat, this is a way to utilize our social and professional networks to increase productivity.  This is a 21st Century applicable real world skill.

Though many teachers will likely not approve this concept right away, the rules left way for students to still have to make decisions.  Who would they call?  Does this person know more than me on this subject?  Should I trust their advice?  These are questions students have to deal with in finding help to solving  their questions.

Read all about the Australian school here:

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/phone-a-friend-in-exams/2008/08/19/1218911717490.html

What do you think???  Please take a quick minute to add to my thesis research.  All information is anonymous unless you wish to be know.  You may also comment on this blog to help me understand your perspectives.

This is an original survey: Should students be able to use cell phones, the internet, or each other on a test?  Is this cheating???  Please take this survey to respond.

Who wants to be a millionaire? Quiz Rules Survey





Ethics: A basis for cellphones in class

17 04 2009

Many folks argue that cell phones don’t belong in the school setting.  In an NEA article, teachers are surveyed about their opinions of cell phones in class. Most opinons in this national survey are very biased and narrow minded.  These apprehensive teachers are not only unaware of the advantages to cell phones as a learning tool, but they themselves seemed threatened.  Certainly we can all make a list of reasons to ban phones from class use but how many can come up with reasons to support the use of this Web 2.0 tool?  Among many cell phone applications available for free online, their are some life long lessons that cell phones can help educators convey to their students.  Schools and teachers who support the use of cell phones in class comes down to a matter of teachers pedagogical attitude towards using technology.  The greatest lessons that I teach as a an educator deal less with content and more with life lessons.  Lessons regarding decision making, moral attitudes, and ethics are the ones that leave students engaged, inspired, and thinking..

“Why would you give out your phone number to students?  Why would you invite students to text to other students in class?  Aren’t you worried they will use this network to cheat?”

These questions are fair to ask in this debate.  However, the discussion that can be followed with students in class regarding ethical use of phones is a much greater discussion.  How can we use these tools to our advantage?  These are the questions teachers need to focus on.  Otherwise we run the risk of being another stick on the mud.  Advocates of cell phones in class point out the benefit to schools tech departments, when you consider 4 out of 5 students have cell phones, this increases the number of computers available to students instantly.  Leaders of schools who use cell phones in class have created rules that students can agree to and learn by.  Kipp Rodgers, Principal of Mary Passage Middle School in Newport News, Vrigina, “developed an acceptable use policy. They are not to send text messages to anyone outside the building during class hours. They are not to take photos. They are not allowed to upload anything to YouTube or other Internet sites not approved by the school.”  These rules create a sense of right, which students need more and more in this ever dynamic technology society.  Students engage in learning, feel connected to the real world, and adopt a fair use policy.  In my own classroom setting, I find that kids are aware of all the negatives that teachers and parents fear about inapproriate use of the internet and technology.  When we open up the discussion with kids, instead of dictating our our bias’, we create a world of self-awareness and community.





BANNED!

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)

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tahTKdEUAPk

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