Challenge #3 – Good vibrations….

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.

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7 Responses to Challenge #3 – Good vibrations….

  1. dancecookie says:

    Repost from fellow-educator on Facebook just minutes after I published:

    “I think half the discipline problems in my class would not even be an issue if I was not enforcing rules that are not mine. And do you know how much work they would get done if they were listening to ipods and not their friends!”

    Erin, Foods Teacher in a local high school

  2. Ellen says:

    I’d like to hear how this is going. I think it’s a great idea for them to learn appropriate time, place and manner for texting, twittering, etc., and very cool to encourage them to communicate what they’ve been doing in class. I hope your students rise to the occasion!

  3. Lisa Nielsen says:

    Good luck with this. Many other educators are also pioneers in breaking what I like to call BANdates. Mandates that ban students from accessing the very things they need in the real world. Believe it or not, the number one post on my blog of my nearly 600 posts is “10 Proven Strategies to Break the Ban and Build Opportunities for Student Learning with Cell Phones” at
    http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/11/ten-building-blocks-to-break-ban-and.html I hope my post has resources that are helpful.

    Teachers want to empower students to learn with the most ubiquitous device available in households today. Educators, parents, and students NOT POLITICIANS should be deciding how students learn best. This is pure insanity and teachers like you need to take control back and do what is in the best interest of students.

    Good for you for taking a stand and doing what is right for kids.

    • dancecookie says:

      Wow! Lisa, thank you so much! I feel like a teenager who just got a reply to her fan mail to a famous person! I love reading your blog and it’s because of you and others like Queens Teacher, Cooperative Catalyst, Dangerously Irrelevant, RSA, TED, For the Love of Learning, Tempered Radical, and more that I have had the confidence to move forward with radical change in my life and in my classroom. I am amazed by the number of students who have great ideas, great passion, and great strength, who get mauled over by our system every day, and ultimately end up as “failures”. I am motivated by the teachers who do a great job silently, while others are doing a horrible job publicly! I can’t wait to see what happens with this challenge, and I just hope that I do my students justice by not totally screwing up!

  4. Nada W. says:

    I can’t agree enough about “the teachers who do a great job silently, while others are doing a horrible job publicly”…Too bad we can’t be recognized for something other than test scores.

    • dancecookie says:

      OK, just an initial check-in, but here’s what happened when I talked to students, briefly, about the new policy on personal technology device use in the classroom… NOTHING! No one whipped their cell phone out and started watching porn or anything! I wasn’t sure if they were scared that I was somehow tricking them or what. The most action I saw was from a 6th grader, waiting for dismissal, who listened to his MP3 player silently. No telling what tomorrow will bring, but I was totally shocked!

  5. Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Cheers!

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