We’re working on some daily persuasive writing as I toss out topics that I figure will garner some strong opinions from my sixth graders. The other day, we discussed the validity of our state’s MCAS test as a requirement for a high school diploma (you’d be surprised at how many students agree, given how much they dislike the test, and how many were completely unaware of the seriousness of the test in 10th grade). Yesterday, our topic was whether or not schools should allow students to use mobile hand-held technology devices in class.
We begin with some framing of the question, as I explained how many schools are grappling with this topic right now, and then we pushed into brainstorming around the issues for and against the topic at hand. This is where I try to balance between encouraging independent thinking and respectful listening. But they get it. They listen. They talk. They debate. It doesn’t get personal.
Since my students were mostly divided on this topic of mobile devices, I thought I would share out our brainstorming list of the pros and cons of allowing cell phones, iTouches, GPS and other devices from home into the classroom. I am sure you will find their insights as interesting as I did.
- Handy research tool
- Educational Apps
- Built-in calculators and dictionaries
- Ability to contact family
- Ability to contact anyone in an emergency situation (they had a past lock-down drill on their minds, I think)
- Less need to purchase expensive laptops
- You can easily take pictures/videos
- Email/Text teachers (I joked that this might fall under the “cons” side for teachers)
- Move towards paperless classroom
- e-books available for reading at any time
- Some students work better, harder with music soundtrack
And the Cons:
- A distraction for students
- Inappropriate texting/instant messaging
- Device might get damaged
- Device might get stolen
- Someone might hack into it
- Games, not always educational
- Social distraction (paying more attention to device than to people around them)
- How would it get power/charge all day?
- Pictures and video of others might be an invasion of privacy
- The “cool factor” of the most expensive devices would create an equity issue (I was so proud of them for seeing this as a problem)
They then wrote for a bit and then a few shared out their writing. This was not a full writing project. It was a writing prompt, but I loved how it got discussions going around the room. I could not help noticing that many of my most tech-savvy students were against the concept. Perhaps they were realizing their own difficulties with meshing their understanding of technology with the rules of the school.
Oh, and did I mention our school now has a class set of iTouches? We’re still working to use them (some PD is now underway) but that addition to our tech has piqued their interest and prompted the question by one student, “Why can’t I just bring my own in from home? It’s got all the apps I need.”
Peace (in the argument),