To Use or Not to Use: There is No Question

In reading my educator friends’ Facebook posts this week with the arrival of the first day of school, I came across the following statement from a friend who teaches in a highly successful school district (according state exam data):

“Amazing teacher moment on the first day: When handing out index cards to get student information, students no longer know their home/parents’ numbers because they have them saved in their cellphones.  I think that will be my first homework assignment.  I don’t care what subject I teach, that’s unacceptable!”

The following thought immediately popped into my mind after reading this comment: It is 2014, why are you still handing out index cards?  The students are probably looking at her wondering why they are writing their information on cards when something called Google exists.  

So, I had to comment on her post.  I wrote, “Lol.  I think the index cards are so old school.  Create a Google form and have the kids fill in their info from their cell phones.”  After a few comments from other friends basically stating that students should be on our platform not the reverse (ugh! time to provide comfortable paths for the students), my friend with the index cards responded to me, “They’re not allowed to have them in class.”  I sighed.  Bewildered.  What a paradox! Successful on state exams but not allowed to use their own technology and be “college and career ready.”

This situation is indicative what is questionable about our system. Success on a three day exam gets positive press, accolades from those informed and uninformed, and rewarded titles that are here one year and gone the next.  Yet, students are not allowed to use their mobile devices/Smartphones/computers in their pockets.  Where is the value in that?  Aren’t we supposed to prepare students for the next level?  Model for them what digital responsibility looks like?  Allow them to make positive decisions?  Or, should we keep standing over them while curbing their use of their current understanding and reality? Or better yet, think it is enough to provide them apps that they MUST use because navigating away to the world wide web could be dangerous.

Technology saturates my school.  Students are given chromebooks, motivated to use GAFE whenever possible, teachers are infusing technology into their daily instruction, students are on their cell phones submitting answers to polls and surveys, using green screen applications to film Shakespearean plays at the Globe theater, participating in The Diary of Anne Frank film festival, and the list goes on and on.  The majority of this work is done on those evil cell phones.  I thank Bob Schilling and Jenny Steigerwald for their trust and knowledge! This simple Facebook post reminds me about true teaching and learning and how that is assessed.  We can be given any state score imaginable.  In the end, our students will be the movers and shakers of the future.  Trust your students, for their knowledge is more networked and responsible than we even know.   


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