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.

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