Cellular Division

As my regular followers know, I am passionate about using cell phones as a digital tool in my classroom.  In addition, I have really enjoyed exploring Celly in my classroom, a texting platform that allows my students to communicate through text messaging on their cell phones.  What is really nice for me as a teacher who teaches in a low-income, rural district, Celly allows my students to use smart phones and “dumb phones”.

My intention of this blog post is not to discuss Celly or how I am specifically using cell phones in my classroom.  I want to put something out there that I am passionate about.  Over the past several days as I have been doing research for some writing I am doing on cell phones, I came across several articles, blogs, and comments about cell phones being used in the classroom.  In my readings and observations I am still seeing a huge number of educators taking on a negative attitude towards the use of cell phones in the classroom. Now, I am a language arts teacher and I want to tell everyone that reads this, I am still focusing on making my students better writers.  Yes, it is true, I don’t always have my students writing with paper in pencil in my classroom.  Why is this so bad?  I am still helping my students grow as writers and I am using digital tools to help them achieve confidence as writers and my students are engaged.  Yes, I truly believe we are seeing a paradigm shift from paper/pencil to laptops and cell phones. What I embrace the most is the use of cell phones while connecting the Common Core Standards.  Things change and in this instance, I believe it is a change we need to embrace if we want to reach our students. My students see my genuine excitement for writing and know I am not abandoning paper and pencil. In addition, I am not asking any other educator to stop using the typical writing tools in an language arts classroom.  As a matter of fact, my students write in a journal daily using a composition notebook and pen or pencil and enjoy it. But, that is a whole separate blog post.

Though not everything I have read is completely negative, I see a lot of apprehension and excuses emerging from educators shifting in this new direction.  Teachers are afraid by using cell phones in their classroom they are going to open up a pandora’s box of problems where they will never get their students to put the cell phone away when they are not using it or supposed to be using it.  Bottom line, this comes down to classroom management.  Yes, it is possible to build a community of writers with cell phones.  I have not had one issue with my 7th/8th grade students this year and their cell phones.  As a matter of fact, my students are constantly asking permission to use their cell phones in my classroom.  My students and I have a mutual respect for one another when it comes to their cell phones and what my expectations are in the classroom.  I have built this community within the walls of my classroom and I have taught my students how to be digital citizens and this citizenship carried over to other classes too.

On the other hand, I also am learning there is apprehension from teachers because of the current policies their schools have in place.  The thought is if the policy states students can’t use them in school or they are supposed to be in their lockers, they can’t use them in their classrooms.  Well, my school policy echoes the idea that students should keep their cell phones in their locker, but I use them in my classroom.  It starts with having an open communication with you and your administration.  If you haven’t had a conversation with your principal about the possibilities cell phones can bring to your classroom, then you have no room to complain about your school’s policy on cell phones.

Bottom line, there is a “cellular divide” that is going to continue to exist due to the strict policies, apprehensiveness, and the overall refusal to change the methods being used in the classroom.  Educators need to see the benefits and the power that digital tools such as cell phones can have in the classroom and on the students.  I may be only one of the few who believe in the benefits, but I am willing to do the convincing.

Cheers!


Cell Phone Policies

Okay now that I have somewhat of a routine down with our newest family member, it is time to empty this brain of mine. For those of you who read my blog, prepare for a wave of blog posts this week and next. My brain needs some major dumping and blogging is where it is at!

Recently my principal asked me for my input on our districts cell phone policy. Since the second half of last year, I have been using cell phones in my classroom from time to time as a digital writing tool. This year it has really taken off with the use of Celly. As a result of engaging my 21st century learners and knowing that today’s “screenagers” are “wired”, my principal is looking to make a change. On the other hand, the misuse of cell phones is another cause for my principal to re-examine our policy. It is not just misuse by the students either, it is misuse by the adults, the so called professionals. Now, I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to checking my phone to see who texted me or emailed me. However, to check my phone and to be on it for an extended amount of time, is different. Just sayin!

Though I have not sent anything in writing to my principal, I have been diligintly thinking about how a school district can find a perfect balance between discipline and usage in the classroom when drafting a cell phone use policy. Some questions to ponder are: Does a school district involve parents when trying to determine a policy? If it takes a community to raise a child, shouldn’t we at least consider what parents have to say with the clear understanding that the school board, administrators, and teachers have the final say? Second, what about the student’s input? In my opinion, students are going to abide by a policy if they are the ones that helped construct it. Obvisously you can’t have every student participate. I think starting with a small survery for students about the use of cell phones in a school setting would be an excellent start. On the other side of the coin, consulting teachers and support staff about changing the policy will provide any district with a substantial number of people who can help develop and draft a policy.

With the help of many different people, I believe it is vital to think about appropriate times students can use a cell phones. In addition, we need to consider the appropriate times adults can use cell phones. Composing a list of safe digital sites associated with cell phone use can help ensure teachers such as myself that cell phones can continue to be used in the classroom as a digital tool. Then, there is the issue of consequences for those students and teachers who do not abide by the rules. Many schools confiscate phones for a day or contact parents. Whatever the punishment, it should be enforced and students, as well as teachers, should clearly understand their boundries.

With all this being written, I may be leaving some things out. I am certain that I am. However, I just want to make everyone think about the current policies in place at their school/district. I strongly believe that a policy, like a piece of writing, is never finished. It will continue to be a work in progress and should be revisted before the start of every school year to be revised. I am confident a majority of schools will be revising their cell phone policies in the future for the good of the cause. If your school doesn’t have a policy and you don’t know where to start, consult school districts around you to see what they have in place and use theirs as a stepping stone.

Cheers!