In this technological age, should personal electronic devices (iPods, tablet computers, cell phones) be allowed in class? This is one of the most hotly debated questions in Education, with arguments for and against flying back and forth across classrooms and through districts and homes all across America.
There are many excellent reasons not to allow them. Chief among these is the distraction they cause. There is also the potential for cheating, cyber bullying, and accessing inappropriate content during school hours. If there is a way to misuse technology, your average middle-schooler will find it in 2.6 seconds flat.
Despite all these problems, issues, and concerns with allowing personal electronic devices in the classroom, my answer is:
I admit, at first I only toyed with the idea of allowing kids to use their tech devices. For the last couple of years, I’ve gone on a case-by-case basis, with the approval of the administration. However, I have decided that, in my opinion, it is definitely worth letting the kids use their own personal tech items in class.
Here are three reasons why:
- I have one student using her Kindle during silent reading time. If she doesn’t understand a word, she can use the built-in dictionary and thesaurus, which are literally right at her fingertips.
- Another student brings his iPod Touch to school. He uses it for our immigration unit. He is able to use the school’s Wifi connection to access correct, and current, information about the European country he is studying. This information is much more relevant, useful, and interesting than the information printed in the set of 1993 Encyclopedias which are gathering dust on the shelf. (Honestly, have any of us looked at an Encyclopedia in book form recently?)
- Several of my kids have “regular” (non-internet-capable) cell phones. These kids don’t take them out of their backpacks at all during class, but they do have them. Families give their kids cell phones for a reason: COMMUNICATION and SECURITY. Being a parent myself, I get it. As a teacher, I also get it, especially after this week’s school shooting. I know many people would probably be irritated by my position. However, emergencies and accidents can happen anywhere. Few of us go anywhere without our cell phones; we carry them “just in case”. Why shouldn’t our kids have the same protection?
These reasons are just three quick examples of how Tech devices are helpful at school and in the classroom. I suppose if I had access to 25 laptops, one for each of my kids, that personal devices might not be so important. Sadly, that isn’t the case, so we make do. We improvise.
This is the year 2012, and let’s face it, the cliché is right. It’s a whole new world out there. Technology is just going to become more and more affordable and, therefore, accessible; that means more children will be getting their own personal devices as well. In this constantly changing, fast-paced society, I don’t think it’s too extreme to say that our children will need technology to get along and get things done.
Please note that I’m not saying that kids should be glued to technology 24/7. They definitely need to learn how to use it wisely and appropriately.
Can tech be abused? Absolutely. But to not use technology at all would be the worst abuse possible, in my opinion.
Some teachers who disagree with using personal tech devices in class are perhaps afraid of the technology themselves? I am by no means tech-savy, in my personal life or in teaching, but I’m learning. My students already know more than me about iPhones, apps, or tablet computers and readers. However, I look at it like this: good for them! Maybe they can teach me. If we teach them to use it properly in return, it becomes an excellent tool for their education, and not a time suck, a distraction, or an annoyance.
New teachers, fresh out of college, have never known a world, educational or otherwise, that didn’t have technology in it. I imagine that, for them, using technology is as instinctive and natural to them as breathing. My daughter jokes that every Kindle, Nook, Galaxy or iPad should come equipped with a middle schooler to teach the adults how to use it. And she’s right.
We adults, particularly those of us who grew up totally without computers and cellphones (let alone the internet) probably drive them completely crazy by insisting they do their work without it. No student I have ever known has turned up his or her nose at the opportunity to use any kind of technology. In fact, it is the opposite: they always welcome it. It makes work easier, faster, more accurate. Why wouldn’t they, or we, want to use technology if we could?
What do you think? Should we actively encourage or discourage the use of technology, personal or otherwise, in the classroom?
iTouch the Future, because iDon’t Stop Believin’ and iAlways TeachLikeCrazy!