The battles between the authoritarian forces in schools and the social, even anarchic forces in the seats of classrooms (moving at the speed of creativity in the minds of students) continue to rage. Cell phones remain contentious. How many schools will move beyond simply banning cell phones, to employing technologies which actually jam cell phone signals? Will this be legal? According to Anna Scott of the New York Times Regional Media Group:

Cell phones are the leading cause of suspensions at Southeast, [Michael] Horne [principal of Manatee County’s Southeast High School] said. Teachers have confiscated an average of more than three phones per day this school year. Each case can take up to an hour to handle, Horne said – not to mention the students’ lost concentration and learning time. Horne plans to spend nearly $100 to purchase either a cell phone jammer, a device that blocks all cell phone signals in the school or a single classroom, or a cell phone detector that lights up when a student’s cell phone is on. One of his teachers recommended a wall paint that could block calls.

Is this desirable? What does this say about our school systems and the authoritarian assumptions and cultures upon which many of them are built? How would this interactive dynamic change if public schooling was optional for students? In charter schools where students and families actually apply to attend the school, I think some of these dynamics are more often different. Leadership in schools remains vitally important, but the overall school culture is crafted by more than the agenda, personality, and attitude of its leader.

Why are students in school? If they don’t want to be there (and of course they should WANT to be there, but many don’t) should we force them to go? Situations like this reflect the difficult conditions in which many educators and administrators work on a daily basis. I think this is both a “sign of the times” and a symptom of trouble. I’m sure if I offered to share a workshop on embracing the constructive uses of cell phones in the classroom for learning at Southeast High School I might be regarded as a crazy man. Disruptive technologies like cell phones don’t have much of a role in the traditional classroom, focused on content transmission and unconcerned with issues of student engagement and authentic assessment. Our conversations relating to these topics need to extend beyond the technology, to the pedagogy and learning fundamentals which either are or are not expressed in the positions people take about these topics.

Via The Ledger Online via TechLearning.

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5 Responses to Cell phone jammers at school?

  1. Vinny says:

    So if you are ineffective at properly supervising students who abuse this technology, then you should deny it to all others.

    Of course, administrators can no longer use cell-based walkie talkies to communicate. Teachers must now wait for school phones to be available to make personal and work-related calls. In the event of a phone outage, everyone is without communication.

    This is unfortunately how we react to many of the challenges in education. If one person messes it up, no one can use it. Isn’t this why we block Blogger, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube and every other cool web tool?

  2. Leon Cych says:

    In eurpope we have just had our firts txt conference about use fo phones in higher education – pleae pop in and have a look at the film – it shows several strategic uses of phones

    http://www.l4l.co.uk/?p=62

  3. I attended the year-end Kindergarten PTA program at our school last night and was really taken back by some comments made about cell phones. As the kindergarteners were taking the stage to sing a few songs, the music teacher made the typical concert etiquite speech to the packed house of pround parents. It sounded something like, “turn off your cell phones because we don’t want to hear you talk” etc. She was very insistent that ALL phones go OFF, but from my vantage point, I didn’t see any phones powering down at all. Why? Because the parents were using them as cameras and wanted to take pictures of their babies. There wasn’t a picture-taking parent that was about to turn their phone off.

    We are running schools (and kindergarten PTA programs) under an outdated set of rules. We still have way too many teachers who haven’t noticed that things are a changin’

  4. Scott Meech says:

    Outstanding entry today Wesley…

    “Our conversations relating to these topics need to extend beyond the technology, to the pedagogy and learning fundamentals which either are or are not expressed in the positions people take about these topics.”

    I think this is our greatest challenge as Tech Educators. We need to put together a solid body of work that provides solid evidence on how to use this technology properly. We talk about data-driven decision making. Well, we need more than solid argument to change their minds.

    Thanks for leading the way…

  5. Brian Crosby says:

    Wes- and what about schools that happen to be in wifi rich environments like the one I blogged about here:
    http://learningismessy.com/blog/?p=224
    If students start bringing wifi computers to school, or the school starts handing them out for use on the districts locked down network ,,, how long before students notice that there is open local wifi they can log into to bypass didtrict filters? Then what – block wifi from the school? Will that effect reception for the houses near the school that have wifi? Now what?
    Connections are messy!

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