Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cell Phones and Handhelds for Instruction


When I was invited yesterday to join a district policy discussion about Cell Phones and Handhelds for Instruction I was referred to as an early adapter. I'm flattered to be considered an early adapter; I think I have some credibility as an early adopter, too. I did some writing about the general subject of information devices and access to information a year ago as a guest blogger on Shelly Blake-Plock's TeachPaperless site. Note the links in that post to the blogs of Ira Socol , Will Richardson; they and lots of other folks are talking and have been talking about the day when schools decide to quit wrestling with the horse and decide instead to jump in the saddle and start riding.
Matt Montagne's comment on my post deserves some thoughtful consideration, I think:

"Schools need an exist strategy for getting out of the computer business. Barbara Bareda wrote about this in a recent leadertalk post. Let kids bring in their own stuff and provide stipends for students/families who can't afford a device. I'll take it a few steps further. In the next 5 years, the relevance of the LAN and school owned networks will shrink as wide area broadband continues to proliferate, improve and become a commodity. Are schools prepared for this? Do they have an exit plan to get out of the computer and ISP business? December 20, 2009 6:39 PM

I think it's great that the MPS is considering beginning to use current and future communications methods, but I think it's crucial that this discussion be as public as possible The issue of the how we access information and report information and share information and create content is indeed a very broad subject. It's the essence of what we do as educators.

This discussion has the potential to lift the MPS out of the gloomy morass in which it's currently slogging. This discussion has the potential to move the MPS into the 21st Century ( we won't be any more tardy than lots of other educational institutions, if that's any consolation to the realization that we're way, way behind in waking up to what's going on.)

I've started a Twitter hashtag for this discussion #MPShandhelds and I'll be posting some more thoughts here about why I think this discussion needs to be publicly documented; Moodle, or one of the available tools on the new MPS web platform would work for a public archive. I suspect that we'll reinvigorate the debate that followed Steve Dembo's post on Dangerously Irrelevant when he said: " I don’t see it as teachers spurning technology, or choosing not to take advantage of those new ideas and tools. I think most teachers don’t even realize that there’s a decision to be made. " (There's 138 comments on the post, so far.)

The notion that all opinions regarding this issue are equally valuable needs a little more discussion, too. When it comes to designing how we construct our teaching and learning for the future, the opinions that lack the benefit of experience or research are less valuable than those which are informed by experience and objective research. The opinions of those who will use the new design are important, but we have information from the new world that will alter the closely held beliefs of those from the old world - North America is not India; Earth is indeed a sphere. We don't need to make the same kind of mistakes that those who 'discovered' the Americas made.

The question is not whether to use the tools or not, the question is how to proceed to learn how to to use the teaching and learning tools of this age.


  1. I love this thought. I'm very excited that these conversations are happening at the district level. That is awesome.

    I had girl last year who didn't know her phone number when she was filling out a high school AVID application. She said it was in her phone and asked if she could pull out her phone.

    Of course, I said yes. I was expecting a basic phone and she pulled out a Blackberry. Eighth grade. Blackberry? Our students have the technology.

    Would I enjoy typing a paper on a BB? Probably not but I'm sure that my students feel differently and could make it work.

    As a 1:1 classroom, I can't imagine going back. The tools that we have available are simply amazing. We take notes in Google Docs. We blog with Kid Blog. We research during our tutorials. Teachers and students outside our classroom routinely comment in student work (that never happened before).

    Letting kids bring in the tool of choice, using web based options in the classroom (making platform irrelevant) and engage student is the key.

    Great post. Please keep me updated on the direction is going with this.

  2. You summed it up perfectly in your last line:
    The question is not whether to use the tools or not, the question is how to proceed to learn how to to use the teaching and learning tools of this age.

    The question can't be if we should use the tools, no one questions using pencils or books as a learning tool...they were the tools we had available for learning. There are new tools for learning. We should and will be using them. How we use them matters. How they drive and direct learning matter.

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