Busy times… I just fell exhausted off my exercise bike and fell over towards my computer to do the other thing that I keep meaning to get to… I have four or five posts that I really want to write… and have gotten tied between them. Today I’ll try and get some of the jumble out on paper.
I was listening to cbc radio a couple of days ago (if you don’t listen… you should… they just might be our greatest export) and heard a very interesting conversation regarding the removal of student imported technologies in the classroom in Milwaukee. My interpretation of her position at the time was that we need to take the technologies out of the classroom in order to stop the disruptions and in order to protect students.
As all this stuff flies by, it’s hard to get any real grasp of what the issue really is. In this case, I’ve decided to do a little research, and pass it on to you folks. It seems that the rules are pretty specific. Here’s the cell phone guidelines from the administration’s website. There are three documents there, one for the parents, one for the administrators, and one that seems to be the actual ‘rules’.
The deadline for implementation passed last Monday…
â€œStudents are not allowed to possess or use two-way electronic
communication devices such as pagers and cell phones while
on premises controlled by MPS unless approval has been given.â€
I was very much prepared to react very violently against this policy when i heard about it. But, I must say, in print it looks pretty sound. There are a series of proceedures for punishing students who disobey the rules, as well as an injunction specifically demanding equality of judgement across schools. Nothing unexpected here. There is also the chilling line near the end
” Adults who engage in battery against school personnel will receive a criminal review for possible criminal charges. Any use of a device for criminal intent is subject to prosecution.”
It is clause number three in this ruling that makes me both very impressed with the work that the school administration has done in documenting their thought process… and makes me pleased that i actually took the time to check on what they were talking about.
3. Each school will establish a procedure for granting approval for students to possess and use cell phones.
According to the MPS rule, approval must be obtained for students who must carry electronic communication devices for medical, school, educational, vocational, or other legitimate uses. Obtain the request for approval in writing. Ensure that the student and parent understand that the device is to be used for the approved purpose only. Establish a procedure for communicating this information to staff members who come into contact with the student.
There you have it. A school that is trying to come to terms with a new technology… and is being very forthright about its thinking and still leaving a little room for the technologies to be used for educational uses.
I think that the above response is the best bit of banning I’ve ever seen in this kind of situation. It is thoughtful, well organized and fair. It will probably accomplish the goals of reducing phone use in the classrooms… it will give teachers the support that they need in order to force students to focus on their lessons.
Most teachers I talk to are overworked… and the students they are teaching are not responding to the forms of discipline that worked even half a generation ago. The teachers are, also, undertrained, and are often overwhelmed by the vast number of ‘secondary literacies’ that they are forced to pick up just to keep up with their students.
What we have here is more evidence of the disconnect. The disconnect between our school system and the world that our students are living in. I’ve made this argument at length elsewhere… and will again in the next few weeks, but, in short
Twenty years ago my teachers felt they knew what I was going to need to know when I grew up. The things I did in class that got me thrown in the hallway
- passing hand written notes
- talking in the back of class
- pretty much anything else you can imagine that might be irritating
If you look at the literacy skill set there you’ll see that the things that I was doing in the classroom were actually different interpretations of the things that were already going on there. (that is, if you accept that my teachers were trying to irritate me… something of which i was mightily convinced when i went to school.)
Now, lets take a look at the things that are the cause for disciplinary action in the here and now.
- SMS messaging in class
- cyber bullying
- social networking (see myspace… you may have heard of it)
The literacies that these students possess are not really being valued… and they are moving on to the set of literacies that they will need in order to work in the next few years. When, I wonder, will we be able to change our schools so that those are the literacies that we are actually teaching?
The students are already leaving us behind.