Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Handbook revision time? Check your cell phone policy

Like many schools in our district and everywhere, we have begun the process of reviewing our student handbook. Every year it seems there are some items we are constantly trying to fix - attendance and tardies - always looking for the perfect answer. There are also some items we see change slightly year after year in the dress code - we used to ban flip flops, but no longer do. This year will see the disappearance of the ban on "pajama" pants. Odd but unremarkable changes in teen fashion are easy things to make adjustments for. But one item always remains on the "ban" list right along with gum and hats - that is the evil cell phone.

However, this year we may be tossing the cellphones into a different category than their usual company of hats and gum. This year, we may actually be regarding cellphones as (wait for it...) computers! As such, we may be thinking that perhaps something more along the lines of an acceptable use policy such as we have for our laptops may be a more appropriate guideline for dealing with these little nuisances.

Now before you go thinking we have turned the asylum over to the inmates, just be prepared to check a few items out. More and more we are seeing items in not just educational news, but in the "mainstream" news as well about new and innovative ways cellphones are being used in classrooms.

Any adult who owns a cellphone has some idea of the computing power they have in their pocket. Most adults will freely admit that they don't even know how to harness all of the power available to them on their phones.

Consider this - today's typical cellphone is far more powerful than personal computers were even 10 years ago. They are much cheaper, and the majority of our students already own one. Even teaching students how to use the applications that are currently on their phones could go a long way toward teaching them about productivity and making digital tools work for them. But beyond that, there are now literally hundreds of potential uses for cell phones in education.

I'll leave you here with several items to consider - the first and most important is a sample of an acceptable use policy for cell phones. Even if you still consider them a distraction, there is no denying their power - and it's time for them to take their rightful place among the company of computers - not hats, and not gum.

The other items I'll give you are several of the best articles and blog posts I have read over the past year that really bring the cellphone-in-schools phenomenon into perspective.

*Innovative ways cell phones are being used in classrooms
*The cell phone industry (of course!) reminding us how powerful and useful cell phones are as a learning tool.
*8 ways to use camera phones in class.
*Instead of looking for ways to buy those fancy expensive clickers to go with your fancy expensive SmartBoard, use cellphones this way (TextTheMob) and this way (udefn). And also like this (GeoGraffiti) and this (Wiffiti). Same effect, less money (as in zero).

Don't even get me started on using cellphones for GoogleDocs and GoogleForms, text novels, reading books on the phone, and polling students.

This is certainly not to say that cell phones have a place in every class all the time. However, I do believe there is an "acceptable use" of cellphones in school - rather than denying their existence by banning them, we would do well to teach our students the power of their cell phone, and that that power goes far beyond texting their friends who are sitting across the room from them.

*Flickr photo by iBjorn
*Flickr photo by Absolut Leigh

No comments:

Post a Comment