Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cellphones the new Computer?

[cross-post from iTeach Mobile]

On Friday, the Washington Post ran an article about cellphones in schools titled, "Teachers begin using cell phones for class lessons." This article nicely sums up the issue/debate regarding cellphones in the classroom. Here are a couple excerpts:
"At Husfelt's district, seven students were recently arrested after they got into a fight on campus that he says was instigated through text messages....In other parts of the country, teens have been arrested for "sexting" - sending indecent photographs taken and sent through their cell phones. Students also use the devices to cheat: In one poll, more than 35 percent of teens admitted cheating with a cell phone."

"Teachers who have incorporated cell phones into their classes say that most students abide by the rules. They note that cheating and bullying exist with or without the phones, and that once they are allowed, the inclination to use them for bad behavior dissipates."

Additionally, on Wednesday, Will Richardson posted a thought provoking entry on his blog Weblog-ed titled, "I Don’t Need Your Network (or Your Computer, or Your Tech Plan, or Your…)" that addresses this issue. He also, much more eloquently, poses the same question I posted in this forum a couple weeks ago. Will's response to the issues raised in the Washington Post article is basically that we need to start looking at cellphones as the next generation of personal computers. In fact, there are companies right now that are developing laptop-like devices that turn your iPod Touch, iPhone, or Blackberry into a laptop with full-size screen and keyboard. The issue of cellphones in classrooms then, is more an issue of how we deliver instruction in a 1:1 computing environment. Our focus, he argues, needs to be more on curriculum than technology. Here are some excerpts from Will's post:

"We’ll soon be seeing what Steve Rubel is calling a “dumb shell” that takes the book idea in that video and creates a netbook sized (at least) keyboard and screen that your phone simply plugs into." "At what point do we get out of the business of troubleshooting and fixing technology? Isn’t “fixing your own stuff” a 21st Century skill?" "95% of the curriculum currently being delivered in those classrooms would waste 95% of the potential in the room that we could glean from that access."

"All too often we get hung up on the technology question, not the curriculum question. Here in New Jersey, every district has to submit a three year “Technology Plan” and as you can guess, most of them are about how many Smart Boards to install or how wireless access will be expanded. Very, very little of it is about how curriculum changes when we have anytime, anywhere learning with anyone in the world. Why aren’t we planning for that?"

I know that these are new and revolutionary ideas but I think we need to wrap our minds around them real soon. What are your thoughts? Is this truly the way we are headed? With 71% of our students owning cellphones and given the short life-span of these devices, how long before all of these are smartphones? What changes will we have to make in curriculum, policy, and teaching methods? What are the consequences of not doing something?

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