I had a moment yesterday. A moment of pure disgust with myself. I was thinking about all of the ideas that I have and how long education revolutions seem to take (FYI: I’ll now be using revolution in place of reform). And I started to ponder some ways that I, in my own classroom, without any collaboration, could start. And I realized that without a 1:1 computer ratio, and without having to totally disrupt what I teach and how I teach, there was one thing that I could do that might make a big difference (and cause a big disaster). So I will be taking this challenge over the next nine weeks. I am truly afraid of the negative ramifications that this might have, but if I’m right (and this is not an original idea BTW) it could be HUGE! So here’s the challenge,
ALLOW STUDENTS TO USE CELL PHONES, MP3’s, CAMERAS, etc IN MY CLASS!
I have not lost my mind, completely, but I realized that if we want real reflective practice, real parent involvement, real education to take place, we need to reduce the amount of information that we DO NOT allow to come in or go out of our school building between 8:20 and 3:15. If we are talking about 21st Century Skills… then we need to acknowledge that there are not many, any that I can think of, people outside of school-age students who are not allowed to have a cell phone or other device with them during their day. I leave my cell phone on my desk every day. During breaks I check to see if I’ve gotten any messages or e-mails, especially from my husband or babysitter. So why are our students totally cut off from the rest of the world while they are in our building? Its crazy! Ultimately, we are not teaching them how to use their technology responsibly or respectfully. We are limiting their ability to communicate with their parents and others, and we are overlooking a chance to let students respond to what’s going on in school!
I’m not going to take this lightly. I will have a talk with each class to discuss what our ground rules will be and proper etiquette in regards to this experiment. Also, I plan to explain that, just like the time I give for them to go to the bathroom and get water before and after class, this is a privilege and not a right. Also, I will have them sign a contract saying that they understand that this experiment only applies to my class, and that I am not responsible for any theft, loss, or damage to their devices. I expect that they will all agree that use of the cell phones should be limited to down times before and after class activities, not because I am exerting power, but because having their cell phones on their bodies while dancing will stifle their performance and put their precious devices at risk.
I thought it might be cool, if they want, to offer pre/post class polls through Twitter, or to challenge them to text one (or more) people after class to tell them something interesting that happened in class or something that they learned. These would not be graded, obviously, because it would be crazy for me to get involved in their personal texting, but would open the door for parents to get a “real-time” assessment of the types of activities that they are participating in and how they feel afterward.
What if they say something bad about me? I guarantee it will happen at least once. The fact of the matter is that I need to be open and honest with myself and anyone else who has a child in my class about what I am saying and doing in the classroom. The saddest part of my job is that parents rarely want to talk to me until there’s a big problem, like their child tells me the day of the concert that they’re not coming because of basketball practice (that they have every Thursday night!)
What if a child in another class is receiving texts from my students? Guess what? They already are! The truth is that it’s already happening! The problem is that its exciting to sneak and text during school because it’s so taboo. I bet there will be an initial flux of activity for a week, maybe two, then it won’t be a novelty anymore and students will be ready to think of useful ways to use this experiment to make their class better, their teacher better, and/or to become reflective practitioners in dance (and hopefully school).
So please let me know if you decide to take the challenge!
I plan to post the contract and check-ins as I go to let others know what is working and what hurdles I have encountered.