Students' tools (cell phones, iPods, IM etc) for classroom learning?

I am working on a project that involves teachers partnering with students to figure out how to use new technologies, including the ones students bring to school, for classroom learning. If you have any thoughts or ideas for us, this would be greatly appreciated...I put some questions below. I am a grad student doing research with these classrooms, so I attached a disclosure statement here that explains that I may use your answers for my research but I will not collect your name. Thanks for joining the conversation! The questions below are prompts for what we are interesting in learning about:
  • Do you think students' tools and practices (e.g. cell phones, chat tools, w/social networks etc) can and should be incorporated into the classroom?
  • What do you see as the challenges and benefits to youth using these tools and practices in the classroom?
  • In what ways do you incorporate students' digital tools and practices (e.g. cell phones, chat tools, social networks etc) for classroom learning?
  • What kind of rules do you use? Do you create the rules?
  • How do you or can you enlist youth into helping teachers figure out how to use new digital technologies for learning?
  • What might you be interested in trying?

Tags: 2.0, cell, chats, iPods, networks, phones, social, students, web

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Hi Lisa,

This is indeed a very interesting, timely topic. With all the technological advancements that we have today, how do we keep classroom teaching afloat and up to date? Many students resent the fact that stepping into the classroom requires them to take a couple of steps back in their digital literacy, but how can we incorporate their digital literacy skills in a meaningful way?

One activity I've tried with my Literature class is using social networking sites like Facebook/MySpace and Twitter. My students had to create profiles for characters in a novel and maintain the profiles for a certain period of time, all the while making sure they explore the many facets of the character and stay true to the character's voice, personality, views, etc. Students were also required to make their characters interact with one another. The results were really positive because my students felt that their digital literacy skills were validated in a way that made them think critically. =)

Lasty, I think it's important for teachers to be intimately familiar with the technologies their students are using so that these tools do not end up taking over the class. There still must be some degree of control; regulations must be implemented.
thanks cyndriel,
I have read about projects like you mentioned, but not so much about the interaction. That is really interesting. I am sure the students really enjoyed it! Thank you for your post and I will share these ideas with the teachers I work with!
Of course now I have more questions :)
Do you think your regulations stem from mostly your knowledge of technology or from your knowledge of your students - the relationships you have with them? Do you think letting them participate on those sites as part of class cut down on use that was not part of class, because they had another purpose for using the tools, or did you still need to set a lot of guidelines?
Hi again Lisa,

Yes, the rules I set stem from my grasp of the technology, AND more importantly, what I would like to believe is a close bond and healthy dynamic between me and my kids. One example of a rule I implement is no flaming - everybody's opinions must be respected and if you disagree, find a thought-provoking and respectful way to do so (that doesn't involve "you suck" and the like).

I also think letting them participate in such digital literacy activities opens their minds to the possibilities of learning occurring in other, non-traditional avenues. Who says critical thinking can only happen with textbooks and other staple classroom items? These may be effective, yes, but so can these new technological advancements which are easily demonized simply because they are new and unfamiliar. (I remember in the late 1800s how there was a movement in Massachussetts to stop schools from teaching the novel because it was "bad," lol.)

I hope that helps! Good luck with your study!
I have read some books on how comics were also demonized back in the day, there seeme to always be some new thing for moral panics and youth. at least i haven't heard of any iPod burnings :)
Do you think students' tools and practices (e.g. cell phones, chat tools, w/social networks etc) can and should be incorporated into the classroom?

Absolutely I think they should be incorporated. However, our need to "control" use makes it hard for teachers/school districts (and their lawyers) to ensure our students are staying on task and using the technology for "good" not "evil".If you haven't had the opportunity to read the publication Digital Citizenship in Schools I would suggest it.

What do you see as the challenges and benefits to youth using these tools and practices in the classroom?

In what ways do you incorporate students' digital tools and practices (e.g. cell phones, chat tools, social networks etc) for classroom learning?
I have just started using Ning for my school (Adult Education) but I primarily work with 16 to 18 year olds. The short time I have used it, it has been well received. I find Ning is very education friendly and incorporates a "twitter-like" area, personal profile pages, discussion pages, forums, video uploading capabilities, and for educational entities they will remove ads.)

What might you be interested in trying? I would like to have all of the digital tools available if it will be able to spark one more student's interest in that which is not so interesting for them.

It may be interesting for you to know that the context we are in is fairly technology poor, but many students have mobile tools (that generally are not allowed to be used in school). I would like to know how your school works with you on allowing students to use cell phones/ipods...
Hi Jana,

Thanks for your response. I work with teachers at a few schools. From what I can tell the general rule is they can't be used, but teachers can make their own decisions. I think there is a lot of rooom to prove the value of their use, but there need to be examples. There is also a sense that not everyone has to tools so they can't be used, so this is another hurdle to get over. These are mostly social not technological issues :) I will share your suggestion with the teachers and check out that publication!

More questions is you have time :)!
What have you seen in terms of students use of these tools - is it generally for good :)? Do they understand how to use the tools in the school context, e.g. there are different expectations for that context? What kind of ground rules do you use?
Here is a link to the recent edition of the Iste Siglit Fall Newsletter with an article I wrote about using cell phones in class.

It's a no brainer that all of the tech tools you cite need to become incorporated into our classrooms. And I have a feeling you will get little to no push back on that idea on this ning.

But first we have to vanquish the bubble tests... until that happens, we are gonna be stuck.
thanks, it was specific examples we are hoping to reflect on....
Hi Lisa - Contact me (by email jstrohm at email dot arizona dot edu ) if you want to meet for coffee or lunch. I'm researching a few different areas but have recently have plugged myself into several EdTech and Education Leaders on Twitter - and most are also on the Educator's PLN ning. I skim through it once or twice a day and gleen so much info! Of note: here's an article cell phones in math class.
Thanks Jane, that is good info :)! I will be in touch....



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