Anderson County (Tennesee) Public Schools have recently banned iPods on all school campuses and even on school buses. According to an article from April 13th from a Knoxville TV station:
Supporters of the resolution, which passed unanimously, say students walking down school halls with headphones on are a distraction and that students need to be aware of their surroundings.
My question for these school board members is: Are you aware of your cultural, economic, and technological surroundings? Who is really more situationally unaware here: the school board or the students? A year ago in the spring I participated in an educational law class collaborative project focusing on student cell phone use and district policies relating to cell phones, which vary considerably in Texas schools. Those banning cell phones in schools are close cousins to these Tennessee school leaders banning iPods.
As I continue to read (bit by bit, I admit) Virginia Postrel’s “The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress” I see more clearly the tension between the statist forces of control and opposition to change represented by many school leaders and the organizations they purportedly serve, and the dynamical forces of creativity and technological innovation, where students (generally) seem to line up as supporters.
What a contrast this story presents to Duke University’s iPod and podcasting program (The Duke Digital Initiative.) At Duke, incoming freshmen are issued an iPod and expected to use it as a content access device. They can also use it to create and share content with a $25 microphone add-on. I understand that technologies can be potentially disruptive in formal educational settings: This is why some Texas schools have banned cell phone use and even possession of cell phones by students. However, is it better for schools to ban these devices or work with students and teachers to help them learn about their appropriate use? I think the latter approach has the long term interests of the students and the real ideals of education more in mind.
A normal response for many schools when it comes to disruptive technologies like iPods, cell phones, blogs, etc is “BAN THEM.” One school board member quoted in the TV news clip on this cited fears that students would put pornography on their iPods. Did you catch that word? “FEARS.” My first question is, have any students put pornography on their iPods that they have brought to school? If so, how many? What percentage of students bringing their iPods to school are bringing porn? Evidently, these questions were not even considered by the board, because they are acting on FEAR rather than FACTS or long term interests of children. According to the same article:
School officials say they’ve had no instances of pornography coming onto school grounds by way of a video iPod.
This news article is actually a bit confusing, because in the opening paragraph it indicates the school board has banned iPods from school campuses and buses:
Anderson County school board members voted on first reading to ban personal electronic devices like iPods from school grounds and even school buses.
The end of the article states that the ban is just for use in classrooms, however, which seems to contradict the initial paragraph:
It should be noted that although iPods are not allowed to be used during the teacher’s class, the school does not have a policy about them being on campus.
A good question for community members in Anderson County, Tennessee to ask their school board members is, “How are our teachers and school leaders working to prepare students for success in life in the 21st century?” (Note this question did not ask about “school,” because preparing students for success in school is not necessarily equivalent to preparing students for success in life in many places today.)
The paraphrased answer community members are likely to receive from their school board, sadly, is probably “We’re not. We’re still using the same instructional models and strategies that we endured in the 1950s, and since we had to survive them, we figure kids today should face the same situations. Plus it’s hard to change teachers and schools, so we just figure we’ll preserve the good ‘ole status quo, put our heads in the sand, and when asked by television reporters about our current cultural environment, just lament how bad things are and what ardent strides we are taking to ban cultural influences in our school district.”
Our kids deserve better. Mine do and so do yours.
Practically speaking, Anderson County voters may want to give their school board members a printed copy of Doug Johnson’s proposal for banning pencils. After all, if we want to protect students in our schools, we better get to work immediately getting those sharp, stealable, and distracting graphite dispensers out of every classroom in our nation.
Thanks to Eric Langhorst for posting and podcasting on this situation last week.
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On this day..
- Why Connected Camps ROCKS for Minecraft After School - 2016
- Attend a Summer 2015 iPad Media Camp in June, July or August - 2015
- Oklahoma Digital Learning Summit 2012: In Tweets - 2012
- Closing Session Recommendations & Learning Points: 2012 Oklahoma Digital Learning Summit - 2012
- Conversations about Quality Content in Online / Blended Learning Contexts: 20 April 2012 - 2012
- Conversations about Quality Content in Online / Blended Learning Contexts: 19 April 2012 - 2012
- Spectacular Scenes of Controlled Burning on the Kansas Prairie - 2011
- Podcast377: iPad Stylus Recommendations from Kevin Helmer - 2011
- Super Digital Stories from Celebrate Texas Voices in Lubbock - 2011
- Mandatory Reading for School Reformers and Transformers: Alvin Toffler's 2007 Interview in EduTopia - 2010