by Robert Pondiscio
June 19th, 2009
American teenagers pound out an extraordinary number of text messages. We knew this. But a poll reported by USA Today indicates that one-fourth of their texts are sent during class, despite widespread cellphone bans.
The survey of 1,013 teens — 84% of whom have cellphones — also shows that a significant number have stored information on a cellphone to look at during a test or have texted friends about answers. More than half of all students say people at their school have done the same. Only about half of teens say either of the practices is a “serious offense,” suggesting that students may have developed different personal standards about handwritten information vs. material stored on cellphones, says pollster Joel Benenson.
Serious offense? Haven’t you heard? Using technology to get answers isn’t cheating. Dude, it’s a 21st-freakin’-century skill!
USA Today’s Greg Toppo notes the poll’s reported average of 440 text messages a week on average — 110 of them during class–works out to more than three texts per class period. “The findings also reveal a split in perception between teens and parents: Only 23% of parents whose children have cellphones think they are using them at school; 65% of students say they do,” he reports.
by Robert Pondiscio
February 17th, 2009
A study released today shows that using cell phones in math class improves test results. Well, it seems to show improvement. Skeptics will note the study was financed by cellphone-maker Qualcomm. The New York Times reports it’s an opening salvo in an effort to position cellphones as educational tools.
Some critics already are denouncing the effort as a blatantly self-serving maneuver to break into the big educational market. But proponents of selling cellphones to schools counter that they are simply making the same kind of pitch that the computer industry has been profitably making to educators since the 1980s.
9th and 10th grade math students in four North Carolina schools in low-income neighborhoods were given “smartphones” meant to help them with their algebra studies. “The students used the phones for a variety of tasks, including recording themselves solving problems and posting the videos to a private social networking site, where classmates could watch,” the Times reports. “The study found that students with the phones performed 25 percent better on the end-of-the-year algebra exam than did students without the devices in similar classes.”
“Texting, ringing, vibrating,” the AFT’s Janet Bass tells the Times. “Cellphones so far haven’t been an educational tool. They’ve been a distraction.” She adds that it’s “almost laughable that the cellphone industry is pushing a study showing that cellphones will make kids smarter.”
The issue of business interests in education is thorny and tough to unwind. The board of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, for example, has representatives from Intel, HP, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, Cisco and other tech companies. While they are wise to be concerned about the capabilities of their future employees, they may also stand to benefit from building their share of the education market. The ability to weigh the interests of sources of information, and think critically about their value is, of course, a key 21st Century skill.
by Robert Pondiscio
October 3rd, 2008
Utah’s Board of Education today will take up a proposal to require the state’s school districts to put guidelines in place governing the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in classrooms. Past board discussions have run the gamut from banning cell phones from campus to using them for educational purposes, the Deseret News notes.
Utah’s education officials and lawmakers point to recent incidents of students using camera phones to take nude photos of themselves and others. Texting is being used for harassment or bullying. But many adults admit there is an opportunity to harness this technology that teens are so obsessed with and potentially use it to promote education.
The state’s legislators rejected a measure earlier this year to require all school districts to adopt an electronic-device policy. The bill didn’t pass, the paper notes, but state education officials took notice.
Meanwhile over at The Tempered Radical, teacher Bill Ferriter worries that “those who are in the position to make decisions about how dollars are spent or how instruction should change struggle to understand the range of ways that digital tools can be used to facilitate the work of groups or the learning of individuals.”