Distracted or…?


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by TheeErin

There has been a lot of talk about the Ontario Teacher Union policy on cellphones for students in the classroom (shared by Megan Pratt).  Although the word “ban” has been used, it does seem to be about teacher discretion and I know a lot of teachers in Ontario (and many more to come) that are doing some really great things with student-owned devices in the classroom, and will continue to do so.

A couple of things though…

In the article, the following statement really stuck out to me:

But the union’s move has thrust under the spotlight the problem of trying to teach kids who may be distracted.

What if you changed one word in that sentence?  Let’s try it.

But the union’s move has thrust under the spotlight the problem of trying to teach kids who may be bored.

What if that is the reality?  With all of the amazing things that surround us in the world, and the way kids are engaged outside of the classroom, maybe they are bored.  How many of the adults reading this would be excited by a textbook?  How many would even consider a textbook the best way to learn?

Are some kids distracted no matter what you do?  Absolutely.  But so are a lot of adults.  I recently did a workshop in Australia and remember a group that sat off in the corner, talked the whole time while I was presenting, or spent their time checking their email.  Maybe it was me? That being said, I just get frustrated when we always say “kids” or “students” when a lot of adults exhibit the same behaviour that we think we have to remedy with our youth.  Have you seen “distracted” behaviour during a staff meeting? Workshop? I honestly have no problem with someone on a device, just like I have no problem when someone is writing in a notebook.

The other thing that I wonder is that if we respect student voice so much, were any students talked to when this decision was made?  Any idea on this?

Read the whole article…do some of the statements bother you or is it just me?

  • zecool

    This also bothers me. A lot. So do most of the comments to the post. In some way, it’s like saying: “Let’s keep schools in the 20th century!”…

    That is not what I want for MY kids. I want them to be engaged in their world (the present one and the future one) so they can show what they can do with what they know, even if their jobs still don’t exist.

    Give them the opportunity to have ‘powerful conversations’ (a Bill Ferriter fav) on questions/issues dear to them. Emphasis ‘powerful’. And the wise conductor of student-centered orchestras of learning will know what to do. Sweet music to my ears.

    We need to continue talking/modeling/training/writing/sharing/collaborating about technology affordances to learning, and how it all relates to strong pedagogy on clear, updated outcomes. (“Technopédagogie = pédagogie” as I say in french). Maybe one day the union membership WILL want to update their stance on this issue, showing to all that it is a truly professionnal association. I know MANY teachers here and abroad who are NOT putting cellphones on trial. Au contraire, they are asking HOW to make best use, for teaching and learning.

    ‘Imagine the possibilities’ is still the best marketing line ever. Applies to education more than ever.

    • Colinda Clyne

      I have concerns over the language used by the union, and have already had my cyber wrists slapped by the union leader and another teacher on twitter.

      I have spent much of the summer thinking about how I can use technology to support and engage students, improve my practice and to make my life easier (remind101!). As a history teacher, all the more important to address the students’ present and future worlds as zecool says. And who better to teach and model digital citizenship than their teachers? The impact is less immediate for me as an educator than as a parent as I am a secondary teacher and parent of a middle school techie with a cell phone. Perhaps I will become a regular at his school this year.

  • Lorrie King

    Of course students can use their devices for educational good, and of course, educators want to teach using current technologies. However, it is unreasonable to ignore the fact that students are on these devices for many reasons unrelated to anything going on in the classroom. Before cell phones, a student might have to wait until lunch to find out the latest happenings in his/her social life. Now he/she can get that info in real time, and that is tempting, and access is easy. I think it’s okay to say that some, maybe lots of the information that is being looked at/transmitted during class time is not urgent in any way. In addition, I don’t think that boredom is the major reason for students tuning out with their devices. Rather it is the need for/pull to make those social connections. I agree that the answer is about modeling good practice, discussing the implications of such behavior, and helping students find a better balance. I also believe that it’s fine to tell a student that texting, tweeting, vining, etc. while they are in class or having conversations and working with people is simply not okay. Let’s build their interpersonal intelligence through some face to face interactions!

  • C.S. Stone

    I get the impression the commentors on the article are possibly older and unaware of the power of devices in the classroom. Our district in Indiana has basically made the same decision with one exception: KNOWING teachers are going to use the technology after we have educated the parents AND students on how, why, and when devices are used in the.classroom.

    Part of the job of the educators, be it the union, adminstration or classroom teacher, is to make sure all affected by the technology know the reasons and benefits of using the tools. Perhaps, those of us that use technology can be the ambassador s to the world?

    • zecool

      Right on.

      « KNOWING teachers are going to use the technology after we have educated the parents AND students on how, why, and when devices are used in the.classroom.»

  • Patrick Larkin

    George – great post! My major problem is that many seem to think distractions in our classrooms are something new . The fact of the matter is that students have been distracted/bored in school since the one-room school house. From personal experience, I know that I was distracted as a student in some classes and when the teacher thought I was taking notes, I was writing notes to friends and/or doodling.

    In fact, I am on the same page with you in regards to the technology offering meaningful opportunities to better engage students by allowing them to have a more active voice in the process. These movements are frustrating because they are focused on the needs of adults and not is what is best for students.

  • Chris Wejr

    I agree with the concerns of the message… and I also think that it is so important that we teach/help students self-regulation and self-control skills. It is not always a matter of bored vs distracted (and I realize this simple dichotomy was not your intention as both play a role) but more of a priority and self-control. Yesterday, I was at brunch with my family. I had sent a text to a teacher that morning asking if she was available to work next week. She did not get back to me until we were out for brunch, I began to engage in dialogue just as we sat down for brunch… it was not a matter of being bored but a matter of being distracted. It took a look from my wife and a power down button on my phone for me to focus on the most important thing… my family. I still struggle with this so I cannot imagine what it is like to be a kid when social is such a priority. This is why we cannot ban and put our heads in the sand when it comes to devices and focus… we need to teach and learn together ways in which we can live with these and maintain our focus.

  • captdan38

    We are currently engaged in this very discussion within our school. The decision has been made to engender responsible usage. The problems associated with banning devices is 2 fold. First is the enforcement; how far will you police the ban – will the district/board support a complete ban? Does your school have sufficient machines in the building to enable reasonable/timely access for all. Currently our school has a 4:1 ratio of computers to students. There are more and more teachers using technology innovatively to the point where having students with their own technology can by quite advantageous. It all comes down to being able to manage it at the classroom/front office level.