Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

Dude… your cell phone could get you suspended! Say what?
August 2, 2007, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Articles

Back in April, Garry Brand, an instructor at GRCC, posted in his blog about the potential uses for cell phones in a classroom. His blog post: “Cell Phones ON in Class Please!“. In his post he talks about the potential for using cell phones for student response and surveys. My reply to his post was as follows:

Eric said…
XLNT Garry! Or in non-txt messaging terms… Excellent.This is innovative and out of the box thinking as most instructors are 180 degrees in the opposite direction. How to prevent students from using cell phones in class. Better yet, as you say, let’s use technology that students are already comfortable with IN class and IN teaching.
4/13/2007 1:28 AM

I think the key to any new technology is not to over react or take the position that it will by default be a negative force in the classroom. The key, instead is to make an attempt to understand the technology and discover it’s potential in delivering instruction. If cell phones are a problem, and ipods, what about laptops? In my view, a cell phone is just another tool that teachers and students have available to help create the best learning environment possible.

A perfect example of this was illustrated well in a Blackboard Faculty Support Group podcast interview by Bill Vilberg of the University of Miami. In the interview, Garry Brand mentioned a real world example of how the Internet and a laptop was used by a student for a “teachable moment” that could not have been possible without technology.


Fast forward to today. I came across another excellent blog post by Tony Vincent. His post caught my eye, because it was a Michigan school that was mentioned in this USA Today article.

This article details that a student who uses a cellphone or iPod in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools will be suspended for one day if they are caught.

On Tony’s blog, there was a very good comment that I wanted to pull out and highlight:

Christine Tomasino, said…
Hmm…I think back to some tactics used in my classroom for sharing “ideas” during at test before mobile devices….they were notes written using a pencil or pen….refresh my memory, did pens and pencils get banned in schools or were students suspended for using one?Here is a thought…change instruction so that students need the devices to gather data but to “answer” they need to process that data in such a way that each would have a unique answer that shows deep understanding!

The main reason that the school district implemented this policy was… cheating. Not that I’ve done it, 🙂 , but cheating can take place without cell phones in class or other electronic tools. I enjoyed reading Christine’s comment because it refocuses the problem of cheating into the realm of instructional design. Assessment and evaluation of student performance can be done in a variety of ways, and it is up to us, as educators to create an assessment system that truly validates what a student has LEARNED, and not the student’s ability to memorize.

Cell phones have been in the press a lot lately, from the iPhone buzz, to the crisis communication use at schools and universities, to a recent ABC News article that Doug Kaufman, from clearTXT Inc. and Mobility in Education, forwarded to me about how a kidnapping victim was rescued because of the use of text messaging.

clearTXT Inc., for example, offers a powerful and unique capability for using text messaging in teaching and learning. Their Ubiquity software enables teachers to communicate with students via text messaging. Students can sign up to receive timely announcements, events, items, and grades. This capability provides students with information that comes to THEM rather than the other way around. This communication can happen at anytime, extending the boundaries of the classroom.

In addition, iPods have all kinds of uses in and out of the classroom.  There have been an enormous amount of sessions at various educational technology conferences such as EDUCAUSE, NECC, MACUL, and many others that have highlighted sessions on podcasting  and the use of mp3 players in the classroom.  From learning languages to listening to an important lecture, mp3 players offer another unique capability for teaching and learning.

Finally, as a parent in this day and age, I believe it is crucial to have the ability to communicate quickly and easily. From a quick message saying “my football practice is canceled, can you pick me up” to “we have a family emergency, I’m picking you up now” and so on so forth.

While I’m a believer in technology and it’s use in classrooms, I’m not suggesting that a classroom should be a technology free for all. I believe faculty and teachers should exercise authority in a classroom so that the classroom environment is conducive to effective learning. That doesn’t mean banning all electronics, however, it means leveraging the use of technology when and where appropriate. It also means that often students need to be taught how to use technology appropriately and with good etiquette.

What are your thoughts about this topic?


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Well said Eric. We’re strongly in the “embrace and extend camp.” As you said, there isn’t necessarily educational value in every new technology that comes along (there isn’t necessarily any value at all in a lot of what comes along) but it’s just as wrong to reject it all out of hand as it is to embrace it all.

The difficult thing for most institutions (and most people) is that the scouting and the evaluation of the new tools and media takes very scarce resources. It’s important for institutions to provide resources and experts like yourself who can scout forward and then communicate anything of value (or anything to steer clear of) back to instructors in terms that they can understand and connect with what is important to them.

Comment by Paul

Great post Eric! Thanks for mentioning my blog too. Banning iPods and cell phones reminds me of the early lawsuits against the VCR. The plaintiff claimed a VCR could be used to infringe on copyright. We all know how that turned out. It’s how you use it.

Comment by gbrand

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: