Cell Phones

Presentation on June 8, 2010 by Peter Stoepker
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Cell Phones. It has been a pleasure to read about the use of the cell phone in the classroom. According to the article by Katherine Shaw the pros and cons are pretty clearly defined. ("'Students and Cell phones; Controversy in the Classroom" http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/4903/students_and_cell_phones_controversy.html?cat=9 ) The pros are definitely in the area of security; parents wanting to know where their children are and of course cell phones come in handy in case of an emergency, like a fight or a school shooting. The cons are also clear, cell phones can be distracting during class, they can be used as instruments to cheat during exams and tests. In assessing cell phone use one has to distinguish between the device and behaviour; improper use of the device should not condemn the device as such. It is important to realize that this article talks mainly about the use of cell phones in Middle School and High School; a rather different environment than we have at the Uceda school. It was also interesting to learn that cell phone use is sometimes encouraged by schools or school boards out of budgetary concerns. For example when there is old equipment not capable of providing Internet access, or not enough funding to provide a Wi-Fi environment. Hence shifting the cost of connecting to the Internet to the users, the students, who are assumed to have a cell phone with such capacity. In the blog commentaries the question is indeed raised: "what to do with these students who do not have, or can not afford such a cell phone?" Guided by the principle that necessity is the mother of invention Mark Geary explains in his article"Supporting cellphone use in the classroom" (http://www.homepages.dsu.edu/mgeary/vita/cell_phones.pdf) how he and his at-risk students at a charter school could still have access to the Internet. Luckily at Uceda school we are not in such a position, our students come to class with their laptops, we enjoy the Wi-Fi connection and have access to stationary devices connecting us to the Internet. I was a bit surprised to find the second link in Ms. Uceda's memo, the PDF file, as this link does not talk about cell phone use for educational purposes, but about the educational use of digital technology in general, cell phones, laptop- and desktop computers providing access to the Internet. This link introduces us to the "digital student"'. Indeed the "digital student" can be easily found in your average middle class sub-urban school in the U.S. However as we noticed in one of the articles above, this is certainly not the case in inner-city schools with many at-risk students, or in schools in rural areas where High Speed Internet access can be very costly or even unavailable. And remember rural America is just next door; 20 miles outside Orlando High Speed Internet access can be spotty at best. Luckily the Obama administration submitted recently a proposal to make the whole of the U.S.A have easy and affordable access to High Speed Internet. The wide variety of students I have the pleasure to teach at Uceda covers the full range of exposure to digital technology; some, due to age, country and region of origin, grew up "digitally" and some, for the very same reasons, experienced the digital age much later in life. One student might submit his or her assignment handwritten on a nice piece of paper, and the other one submits the same assignment electronically in Power Point format. It is this wide variety in students and their backgrounds, that makes teaching at Uceda so interesting. As they say in French "Tout finit par des chansons", so no better conclusion to cell phones than Jimmy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFzoWisnZWo Amitiës, Peter