Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Smartphones, Do They have a Place in #FutureReady Schools?

Well, I had a lively discussion on Twitter today, and I'd have to say that I wasn't prepared for it.  A post came up about cell phones being taken up as part of the teacher's classroom procedures.  My simple reply was that we owe it to kids to teach them how to use their phone for something besides socialization.  I got some push back about whether or not we should teach kids how to use their own devices, and there were good points on the topic.  But here's my point.  I don't believe we should teach kids how to use their phones.  They know how to use a phone, but I do believe that we need to raise the bar by asking this question.

Should We Integrate Smartphones into their Learning?

There are 2 ideas that one should consider before answering this question.

Banning vs. Ignoring
In schools that don't want cell phones in the classroom, there are 2 choices school have to make, banning or ignoring them.  If schools ban them from classrooms and punish kids for pulling them out, what are we teaching kids?  Cell phones have no place in learning.  If we turn a blind eye and ignore cell phones when kids pull them out, what are we teaching them?  Cell phones have no real connection to learning.  Banning or ignoring smartphones doesn't do anything but teach kids that cell phones are bad and have no real use in learning.

Competing for Kids' Attention
Kids are digitally connected, and there's no denying that fact.  How many times have we seen kids or heck even adults mindlessly glued to their device while ignoring the rest of the world?  The real battle is not in keeping kids away from their devices.  It is in competing against kids' efforts to connect with their technology.  Notification alerts, status updates and text messages cannot be avoided or ignored.   Teachers will always have the daunting task of competing for kids' attention as long as learning environments ignore the technology walking in the door.

Since you can't beat them, integrate them

Kids know so much about the tech tools at their disposal, but often times little of it has to do with the learning they need to be prepared for a college and career future.  But let's look at the positive here.  Kids can make videos, take pictures, access links, and use social media fluently.  As educators we must realize that our students' tech-savvy skills can be leveraged in ways that can actually accelerate their learning.   Showing kids how to use their cell phones to support learning can provide relevance that exceeds traditional lessons.  Sure, kids will check their Instagram or respond to a text when you allow them to use their cell phones for learning, but hey, they're already doing that in classes where phones are banned.

We are preparing kids to be #FutureReady; therefore, we must acknowledge that smartphones will be a huge part of that future.  Kids who graduate from schools that ban or ignore personal technology will be competing against kids who are extremely competent at using personal technology in their learning and work.  Furthermore, these #FutureReady graduates will know how to use their devices responsibly and at appropriate times while their tech-deprived counterparts will not.  We owe it to our kids to provide them an education that includes meaningful tech integration, and that education must include their personal device.   After all it is their future, not ours, and like it or not, personal technology will be the future.

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