Sunday, January 29, 2012

To Control Technology or Unleash It

Is this technology thing getting out of control such that schools need to start taking more aggressive steps to combat it? Starting Monday (January 30, 2012), Pottstown Middle School in suburban Philadelphia is banning the wearing of fuzzy open-top boots to middle school classes because students have been stashing cell phones in the loose footwear.

Or, is this why some schools are embracing new technologies in the classrooms?

The students know what their world is like now. They also may have a better idea of what their future holds than some schools are willing to recognize or admit. The future includes everyone carrying his or her device. That device is a mobile telephone and electronic wallet with information access and data storage. The students are ready for that future now, and most schools are not.

If schools are going to maintain their relevance in the preparation of our children for their futures, they need to find ways to connect with the kids. This includes embracing electronic technologies which may be uncomfortable to the teachers but are essential to the students.


  1. Dr. Frazier,
    Very good post - amazing that some out there think 'regulating' technology will somehow keep students from having it on their person...I find that unbelievable that a school would ban a type of footwear because of its connection to cell phones...its 2012 for goodness sake! Thanks for a good post

    1. Thanks, Darrin. It is far-fetched. We need to find what motivates the kids. Imagine the power that is being ignored at that school and the opposition being created.

  2. I'm always surprised when schools implement rules they are unable to enforce.

    As part of a recent post, I discussed teaching students how to use chat effectively in a project-based classroom. If teachers set some simple management routines in place, "distractions" of any kind are lessened.

    Janet |

    1. Janet, using chat in project-based classrooms? You understand it! Keep up the good work and model for others so they can follow your lead.

  3. Dr. Frazier,

    I agree with you, that if schools are going to remain relevant, we need to begin embracing technology in all forms, especially having devices for all students to use. However, I'm going to play devils advocate here for a minute, even though I whole heartedly feel the same as you.

    How does the district change and establish a culture that encourages the type of learning environment that is relevant for our young people? How does the leadership approach issues like allowing cell phone use in the classroom when there are over 600 students in the middle school? Essentially, how do they create a plan that doesn't create a culture of chaos and backlash from the teachers? While there may be some leadership issues that should be addressed, I think we also need to look at the context of the school. They are a larger middle school, at least by Iowa standards, and we are quickly approaching the end of the school year, albiet there is still a few months left.

    From the non administrator standpoint, I would probably impose the same type of ban on cell phones at this point in the school year. This would only be a temporary ban until the end of the school year, because I'm guessing that the teachers aren't knocking on the principal's door to start using these devices. Then for the rest of the school year I'd start building a movement amongst the teachers and a number of student representatives to begin creating the type of learning environment that is supportive of cell phones, computers, etc. This process is going to take more than the summer, but I think great strides could be made to begin making real change in classrooms by the end of summer, where any ban on cell phones can be lifted.

    I think the key with situations like the Pottstown Middle School is to have a plan and a lot of patience. The decision to allow any new innovation shouldn't be a top down decision. It also can't be a bottom up one either. There has to be discussion and there has to be a plan in place that makes full use of them in the classroom. If not, then it's almost better off not allowing them at all.

    Sorry for the long comment, but you are touching on something many people overlook when it comes to "new" innovations. It's the process we go through as we adopt the innovation that is going to be the indicator of our success. If we don't do it just right, the results might not be what we want.

    Great post!

    1. Excellent response, Daniel. You are exactly right. Without the buy-in from teachers, no administrative rules will be effective. The key, as you point out, is to start some serious conversations about the future and how the school needs to get there, and then the role of technology within the context of the curriculum. Good ideas!