A post I recently discovered via Triberr, Do Students have the Right to Use Technology in Class started me thinking about this topic.
Does the teacher or the student make the ultimate decision of how the learning occurs? I have seen teachers be the decider for groups of students, and I have seen a student’s path jaggedly bounce between high-tech to low-tech and back again passively, I clearly remember being denied this in my most recent graduate program. Who has the rights in the utilization of technology? When can it NOT be used and when MUST it be used?
Currently I am aware of many classrooms in my district where the default policy is no electronics. I expect it is so many other places. This is troubling because right up until the student walks into that room they are connected through those electronics, but as they pass through the threshold they are expected to literally power down. The burden of relevance of the class is then entirely on the teacher. The absence of meaningful connection is (im?)properly inferred by the disconnected student.
Students in the course know that there is a better way to accomplish assignments, a more efficient manner to create assignments, but these are out of the boundaries the teacher has established. When is it the right of the teacher to enforce the no-technology rule? When will the bigger school come together to embrace common-sense rules throughout a grade level or school building?
Maybe connectedness begs to be examined by task:
- Is the task grade for taking notes from a lecture? If not, maybe notetaking is communal/shared notes
- Is the task grade for handwriting or grammar? If not, maybe a word processing program is used
- Is the task grade for contribution to a group work? If so, the teacher *needs* to consider a Google Doc
- Is the task grade for writing? If so, the teacher needs to consider providing students with a global audience
If broken down by task, there seem very few tasks which preclude technology.
When a teacher just maintains a rule without a credible reason, it only weakens the teachers relationship with the students and further disconnects his/her task from reality.
Student connectedness increases yearly, yet the policies of no electronics persist in select classrooms. The teacher may have maintained this consistent policy for x numbers of years, however maintaining that policy in the face of change creates an incongruency within the grade level for that student, an inconsistent experience of that school from the parent’s point of view, or violently shifting policies with the students daily schedule.
The assumption of students constantly being connected would force a rewrite of many traditional assignments. If we knew students had constant Internet access what assignments would we change? Students understand this better than we think. Students look at low-level work and know that they could answer this with an Internet search. How invested do you think they perceive a teacher who is either to dumb to recognize the shift of information or cannot be bothered to upgrade questions to meaningful engagements which might involve Internet access?
One of the things that a Title I designation does for a school is to assure they get above and beyond whatever a non-title school in the same district gets. This is true for technology as well, and there is often a visible gap in a Title school and a non-Title school participating in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs. So if we have students bringing their own devices at either school let us encourage this as it makes devices more available for other students who do not bring their own device.
So why when students opt to bring a device which they can navigate and control without technological trainings would we ever shut it down?
Teacher as Student
It was 2009 and I was working on my specialist degree. I commuted with two other teachers from my district every Saturday. We liked the program overall, however, there was one teacher who was just tough. Tougher on some of us than others frankly. He had a few things he was particular about, but one day I gave him too big of an opening. I brought my laptop to the cohort classroom. The classroom in the basement, where the wi-fi did not reach. I was typing my notes that day. I do type louder than the average person, so I was sensitive to that fact and was typing as softly as possible. He only lectured. He did not have a PowerPoint, distribute notes, you just took notes. I had no problem with this system. I liked taking notes. Usually I wrote them, but for whatever reason I felt like typing them that day, so I grabbed my laptop instead of paper and pen when starting out for the class. I had no reason to agitate this professor, I was not violating any rules, yet when he started walking toward me as I typed I knew he was after me for something. I think he asked me to close my computer, but for the shock of it I could not tell you what exactly he said. I do remember telling him I was taking notes. I also remember him walking away and not responding to me. Someone sitting near me handed me paper and a pen and another student leaned over and said her husband had been in the class and he was not allowed to use a computer either.
2009, no Internet access, the teacher decides if I can take notes electronically or by hand.
I was literally the customer. I paid money to be there and I could not participate in the manner in which I wanted to participate.
Least Restrictive Environment
To borrow a phrase from those we know who are steeped in customizing the learning experience for the widest variety of learners, let us reset the default to the Least Restrictive Environment. As teachers let us prepare with a true spectrum in mind and account for Wikipedia and Google upfront so that our assignments are not tasks to be survived, but add meaning to our students.
The last barrier – equitable access. Instead of letting this be the end of the conversation, let us future-proof our lessons/policies now. As a school/district provide access for those who do not bring the Internet with them to school and to home. Give options for students every assignment to tap into their introspective self or to access the world wide web.
Give them choices, so that no teacher turns any student off from learning.