Friday, March 09, 2007

Can I video the tug-of-war with my mobile phone?

Even at the secondary school athletics day I am confronted with decisions to make about student use of mobile technology. Student A asked permission to bring his iPod to the field and a set of speakers so that he could play the 'Blue team' theme song. I gave permission. Student B produced a mobile (cell) phone just as we were getting ready for the tug-of-war and asked if he could video it. I asked why he had brought the device and mentioned security risks etc. He replied he had finished his main events and only then retrieved it from his locker. I gave permission. Then Administrator A announced over the loudspeaker that all mobile devices would be confiscated as this was not in the spirit of the event. By lunchtime he had a pocketful of devices. I had already warned my two students to lay low and kept a protective watch over them. [Yes, I am a rebel sometimes ;-)]

OK, I know an athletics day is not the time to be sitting with earplugs and isolating oneself from the occasion, however, I do think we can legitimately discuss appropriate use of technology and mobile devices even in terms of athletics and sporting events without putting out a blanket ban.

I am heartened by the discussion Karl Fisch is fostering on this topic in his recent 'What if?' post. Karl also shares his frustration with blanket dismissals and over-eager administrators who, although having good intentions at heart, are not taking the time to fully explore and consider the ramifications and opportunities mobile and ubiquitous technology brings to education. In Karl's words:
"Instead of posting those signs, could we not have a discussion with our students and staff about appropriate use of technology? There are very real issues that we as teachers are struggling with that are much more deserving of our attention than a sign that I don’t think actually accomplishes anything – at least not anything good. As we’ve seen on numerous other blogs, many of our students are more than willing to spend time thinking and discussing important issues, why not involve them instead of dismissing them?"

In a previous post to this blog I also lament the absence of a common language to start this discussion of important and real issues. How can teachers meet and leave their prejudice and 20th century teaching skills at the door and be open to a frank discussion? How can we meet the students at least half way? More student involvement in the discussion is essential, either through student live forums (eg Student Representative Council) or through online interaction (eg blogging).

I believe there are two main problems here:
  1. A lack of understanding on the educators side as to what advantages for learning and interacting mobile devices can provide to teachers and students and classes in general.
  2. An unwillingness, on the educators side, to relinquish 'control' of the learning arena. It is still the case that if the teacher is not instigating it, directing it and controlling it it is not considered a good learning environment.
We can do better than this. We need to keep the conversation alive.
Thanks to Karl for his new release of '
What If' and his ability to keep posing the questions and inspiring us to consider the alternatives.

Picture Credit: Moblie phone closeup

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Durff said...

I applaud you! I too am a rebel. Rather disruptive to the comfortable status quo I am. Tell me, yesterday I did the Algebra lesson and assigned work they do right there in girl put on those earplugs for her iPod. If she gets better grades doing the assignment with music, is there a problem? She does listen fully sans iPod to the lesson. She does this in English and frankly they ALL write better when they listen to music. In a few years, will we even have earplugs? Personal iPods, yes, but earplugs? Want honestly do you think?

Julie Lindsay said...

It is a matter of stepping back and taking a broad view of technology developments. It is inevitable that devices and access to resources will become more and more ubiquitous. Earplugs may be replaced with special implants, school ID cards may be replaced with RFID chips....the possible changes are many. However, as educators we need to monitor and promote best practice in our own classrooms. Thanks for your response to my blog post!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to play devil's advocate here and add another issue into the mix. Did Student B have permission from those involved in the tug-of-war to do the videoing? How much say did the students who would appear in the video footage have in the matter? Where would the video footage end up? Would anyone's rights to privacy be trampled on by this act? I'm not backing up the heavy handed approach by Administrator A but in that case, it's not as simple as "the kids have the available technology - why not let them use it?" Student A is a different scenario as he/she was not capturing anything in terms of people's actions, images etc. but I think there is a huge teachable moment for your students afterwards in terms of where the line is drawn between a person's right to capture video footage of a school event and the rights of those to control their own identity and who may not want to be part of that footage. What do you think, Julie?

Durff said...

If we were to have this discussion of appropriate use of technology in our classrooms, what would the salient points of that conversation entail? I think it is long overdue with the high school kids. I need to get to this yesterday!

Julie Lindsay said...

Graham, you are absolutely right! I have avoided the ethical and social issues to do with this scenario in my haste to be using the technology....I am discussing this with my senior ITGS class and will blog about this later in the week.

Durff....I think the 'salient points' of a conversation about the appropriate use of technology would include:
- when to use it
- when not to use it
- how to be a good/responsible cybercitizen when working and interacting online