I Hope My Kids Never Have This Classroom

Classroom wall hanging, for student cell phones. “A teacher decided that in order for his students to be marked ‘present’, they have to put their cell phones into one of these slots at the start of class, which they will get back after class is finished” reads the caption on this image of a pocket-chart hanging from a whiteboard in the front of a math classroom.

I hope my children never have to endure being in a classroom like this.

Those who like the idea of the wall-pocket-chart seem to have one universal foundational rationale: “They’re too distracting.”

“They’re too distracting” really means, “The students find their phones more engaging than my lessons, and I don’t know how else to compete.”

Let’s think about the situation a little closer, shall we?  Is it really the phone itself that students find more engaging than Mr. Anonymous’ carefully-worked whiteboard math examples?  Probably not.  Just about any device would do, as long as it presents the students with entertaining snippets of video and audio, and permits them to interact with other individuals (both familiar and strangers).

Call me crazy, but a device that allows us to 1) consume information in a wide variety of formats, 2) create information in a wide variety of formats, and 3) collaborate with others inside and outside the classroom on authentic products for a worldwide audience… that’s a device I want in my kid’s classroom, and I want it heavily used!

How about this for an alternate script for this teacher?

“Who has a cell phone?  Let’s see them.  Great!  You have a device in your hand that is thousands of times more powerful than the computers NASA used to put a man on the moon.  You have a computer, a camera, a video camera, a microphone, and more.  You can take pictures, write poetry, record video, write songs, publish books, connect with people all around the globe, and more.  If you think I’m going to let you bring that sort of power into my classroom and just launch cartoon birds at pigs, or text your friends ‘im bord hmu’, then you are sorely mistaken.  We’re going to create documentaries, write poetry, mix and release albums, invent solutions to world problems, author books, connect with people who know much more than we do about some things, and teach some people who want our expertise on topics I can’t even imagine yet.  Get your cell phone out, and let’s start learning.”

That’s the classroom I want my kid in.  I promise you, Mr. Anonymous, you won’t have to spend all your time trying to sneak up on my kid to see what he’s actually doing with his phone when he’s supposed to be filling out a worksheet.

(And if you’re suddenly thinking, “But some of the kids don’t even have cell phones.  What about them?” then that’s great.  You’re ready to help become a world-changer.  The best changes in this world usually started with the question, “How might we…?”)

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