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Prevent Teacher ‘YouTubing’ by Giving Students More Freedom to Learn

Banning student smartphones denies them the chance to learn communication, collaboration, and creation.
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I cringe when I hear the horror stories from other teachers about how their board has banned cellphones, Facebook and YouTube.  If privacy in a public classroom is the sacrifice that we have to make in order to get the educational benefit out of these devices with video capability, then by all means do it.  Students need to be taught that the polite, respectful thing to do would be to ask for permission to videotape your teacher and then respect his/her wishes.  It is far better to take these moments where cell phones conflict with lesson plans and teach how to better use these devices properly. 

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Photo courtesy of Dean Shareski http://www.flickr.com/photos/shareski/3268690032/

The key is reculturing ourselves to accept this technology in more ways for learning.  If you’ve ever wanted to text someone during a meeting, or Google something at the dinner table to fact-check, then you’ve got a taste of what’s happening in classrooms worldwide today.   Devices that connect to the internet come in all shapes and sizes and there is no way that the public school boards can attempt a 1:1 ratio of equipment to student.  So we depend on students to bring their own tech. If a smartphone (or tablet or laptop) allows students to have that kind of access, then I’m all for it.  Students are capable of deciding how they can use technology to improve their learning, and school needs to provide the environment to help them be productive.  Instead of eliminating their technology from the classroom, we need to teach students the consequences for texting or being on Facebook. They’ll miss out on opportunities for learning, if they can’t learn to communicate well.  Giving students, parents and the whole school community multiple ways to communicate will benefit everyone.  This year my new Grade 9 library helper emailed me and ‘cc’ed’ her parents so that they could sync her library schedule with her parents’ Outlook calendar.  Open communication with the broader community of learners that pertain to my school is my goal. 

The dilemma of society learning when and how to use technology is not in saying “No” to students. The answer lies in the best teaching method in the world: give the students more choice.    

The dilemma of society learning when and how to use technology is not in saying “No” to students. The answer lies in the best teaching method in the world: give the students more choice.  We need to let students Tweet to each other about their geography lesson to deepen their learning, if that’s their choice.  We need to let them choose how they will publish, and determine their own privacy settings.  We need to teach them how.  To eliminate technology from the classroom is to deny our students access to the three most important concepts they’ll ever learn: communication, collaboration and creation.  It prevents them from moving forward and it prevents the greater community from moving forward with them.  

Well said Alana. I agree with

Well said Alana. I agree with Stephen about taking some time for the culture of technology to be fully integrated into the classroom but there are many things that can be do to expedite the process. Your blog post for one is a good example. IMHO: the way to garner support is to get the news out to those who are not online or, if they are, those who don't read the opinions of educators and rather formulate their opinions by the sensationalism of the press. 

We need to initiated good news stories about what teachers are doing in the classroom using technology to support students in ways that reflect what students lives are like. 

The more YouTube movies are shared with parents and the larger community the sooner the change will come. Kathy Cassidy and Avia Dunsiger ( and many others) use videos to connect their classrooms to the world. They connect with families when they are young and new to the school. Keep spreading the word - you are making a great difference!

Good points Lorna. What

Good points Lorna. What methods/approaches to communicating this with parents have you had the most success with?

Hi Alanna, I think that,

Hi Alanna,

I think that, while school districts are slowly beginning to realize that it is easier to accept that the technology is ubiquitous, it will be a while before they move to fully explore the real impact that this stuff can have on teaching and learning. 

What would our school lives look like if classrooms, textbooks and other learning resources became populated with QR codes and live links? What if our schools became "hotspots" for learning? What if students were encouraged to vociferously contribute content, instead of just consuming it?

What if we were to fully embrace technology instead of holding it a distance like two kids at a grade seven dance? (well, maybe that's a poor analogy). What if schools were to become early adopters?