Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cell Phones For Middle Schoolers as Required School Supplies?

I was riding in Texan Papa's Jeep the other day (his radio is perpetually on talk radio) and heard a story about middle school students being not only allowed, but encouraged, to use their cell phones in the class room.

After picking up my jaw from my lap, I listened a little more (while intermittently shouting expletives and loosely flinging some not-so-flattering names in the general direction of the radio.) Of course, my very first thought was, oh I feel a blog post coming on...

It seems that Eanes Independent School District, just outside Austin, has decided to lift its ban on student cell phone use and, instead, encourage students to use this device as a tool to help them learn. Because, after all, 80% of the kids already are bringing them to school. Here's a link to the article.

Which, ya know, makes it okay I guess.

I mean, I'm not going to say that cell phones have NO redeeming qualities. They are excellent for calling someone to talk. I would argue that they are necessary for a person who's travelling, especially alone. They are great for sending someone a quick text message. But, I have to ask, do any of these situations apply to someone in middle school, who's at a school between 7am-3pm, Monday through Friday, being fully supervised by an adult at all times?

This is just so insane. I have to wonder, what could a cell phone do that a computer could not? Is there any task so urgent, so immediate, that it must be carried out with a cell phone instead of waiting until a computer is available? Is using a cell phone actually enhancing the educational experience or improving it in any way? Or is it simply an attempt to connect with students with a gadget that they are already using?

Because if that's the case, I'd like to know why I never got to use my Atari 2600 in middle school.

I am an educator. Okay, well, I haven't stepped foot in a classroom for about 7 years, but I am still licensed and ready to get my sensible shoes on whenever my babies are ready to go to school. But none the less, I understand the desire to reach kids where they are, to tap into their interests and get them plugged into the subject matter. I think these teachers are creative and thinking outside the box. But I just feel like the benefits don't outweigh the challenges. Like, who is going to pay for all the text messages sent on the students' cell phones? Who's going to pay for them to have a data plan, if they don't already have one? For that matter, who's going to pay for the cell phones of the students whose parents won't give them one? (like my poor, neglected daugher. Woe is she.) I also would be concerned about this being one more way to promote materialistic comparison between students. Already kids are judged by what shoes they wear, what purse they carry, what label is on their shirt, and what backpack is on their backs. Now it will be what kind of phone is in your pocket, too.

I guess my main problem is this: Cell phones are not necessary for school. They distract students from the job of learning. They are not educational equipment. Sure, they could be made to be used as educational equipment, but the same could be said for just about anything. And to introduce cell phones in the classroom as a tool that will be useful for learning is, in my opinion, really insulting the teaching abilities of the teachers.

Texan Mama


Melissa said...

We have a school up here who is using the Wii fit to teach gym, and I feel the same way. It's a cop out to actually engaging the children. Life is not always exciting, or about the latest greatest gadget
I really worry what happens when these kids grow up with the need to constantly be "wowed" by everything, because everyday life doesn't always carry WoW!

Oh,fuck it. said...

I think that the one and only reason for any teenager to have a cell phone is for emergencies(like when you stay for any after school activies) only,and not to talk to friends or text dont they already do that at school?

RottenMom said...

Incredible. If I were a parent with a child in that school district, I would be raising hell.

Twitter?! Are they serious? 140 Character reports.

Great post.

A.Marie said...

Oh boy....I agree that cell phones have their place, but not in the classroom!!!

Bridgett said...

Once and future teacher here, like you. And my opinion about ALL TECHNOLOGY is that technology gets in the way of good teaching and is used to mask bad teaching.

My mother is a college english professor, teaching mostly remedial students who are stuck in her classes because their high schools totally fell down on the job. They don't know smack about grammar and turn in papers with LOL and U as words.

Jennifer said...

Am I experiencing some deja vu? said...

I think the schools that have begun using cell phones are using them in ways which do benefit kids. Teachers who study technology as learning tools have developed wonderful programs for kids. Cell phones can be used for kids to have "back channel" chats about work, to collaborate on projects, to ask questions, to peer review and other things. Hang in there, parents, this will all become clear as time goes by.

Charlotte said...

This is really upsetting. I remember the days before cell phones (were they THAT long ago???) and you know what? We managed JUST FINE. I can't really understand the benefit of having middle schoolers carry phones to class. I really can't. I just feel it's yet another distraction in the classroom, a place where children should be LEARNING and not TEXTING.

Okay, okay. Stepping down from my soapbox now :)

This is a great post!

KDC Events said...

WOW! What about the parents who are not allowing their children to possess a smart phone? I know mine, when the time is right, will have an OLD School flip phone- nothing fancy! =)