Take Out Your Phones!

If you can't beat em, join em!

If you can't beat em, join em!

The debate about having phones in school rages on and on. It’s a constant battle trying to manage the technology. Parents have become accustomed to having access to their children all day. Kids see it almost as another appendage. And teachers pull their hair out trying to determine who is on their phone under the desk.

Health teacher Ellen Vickers did an experiment in her Wellness class that I thought was pretty interesting. She asked her students to take their phones out and put them in the upper right hand corner of their desks…on vibrate. Her goal was to see (and let students see) just how often those phones went off.

And off they went! It was a constant stream of buzzes all over the room- a great audio/visual demonstration of the distraction that the phones can be.

Her idea struck me. Rather than asking kids to put them in their backpacks or pockets (where they vibrate and distract those in near proximity), why not ask kids to put them on the desk? They can’t text from the desktop, nor can they sneak a peak at an incoming message. High visibility leads to honesty in most cases. Of course, I would ask that kids turn them to silent.

Another benefit is that they are then there when you need them. Why might you need them? I thought you’d never ask. I love using TexttheMob, a site that lets you set up a poll that kids can text their answer to. Here’s how I used it today:

Textthemob Poll from class

Textthemob Poll from class

In 7th grade tech class, our focus is on safety. We spend a lot of time talking about profiles and what should go online. We also delve into the downside of technology and the loss of privacy that can ensue from improved tools. GoogleEarth is a great example. It allows us to fly through the Grand Canyon, an experience many of us will never get. It also lets us visit places in the world that we couldn’t take a field trip to. On the minus side, I’d love it if I was a burgler. I could target houses that are near good hiding places and figure out how to make my getaway without having to actually be seen at the prospective crime scene ahead of time.

Anyway – we talk about all sorts of plusses and minuses. I then asked how many cell phones we had in the classroom (with unlimited texting…) Turns out we had 4. The class divided up around those phones and discussed whether or not they thought the advantages of new technologies outweighed the disadvantages.  Then the phone owner texted their answer to the Texthtemob site. The results show up right away. Did I get engagement? You bet. And a great discussion about the results. I would not have predicted the results we got- and it surprised the kids too.

Imagine doing this to determine prior knowledge before beginning a new unit…doing OneMinute Math…voting on classroom decisons. The possibilities are endless. And, Textthemob has the added advantage that kids without phones (or without texting) can vote via the web.

If you decide to try it, leave a comment about how you used it and the results. I’m interested to get new ideas.

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