PLAYBACK: From Fear to Facebook, and More Schools Embrace Cell Phones in Class

Behind the Research

10.15.10 | The Journey From Fear to Facebook: Over at New Media Literacies, Erin Reilly talks with Matt Levinson, author of “From Fear to Facebook: One School’s Journey,” about his move in 2007 from Princeton, N.J., to Hillsborough, Calif., to start a 1-to-1 laptop program at the Nueva School. Levinson, who previously taught at Princeton Day School, is assistant director of administration and head of Nueva’s middle school.

A snippet:

Can you share with us an example of one of the most difficult obstacles Nueva has faced in this journey, how you overcame it and the unexpected positive outcomes that resulted? How did you foster a participatory culture whereby dialogue between all stakeholders in the Nueva Community happened and all voices were heard?

The first two years of the program, we approached the laptop program from the outside looking in. In year two, we learned the valuable lesson that we had to include the kids in our discussion and planning and develop a model from the inside out. The kids resisted the boundaries of the acceptable use policy, but at the root of the issue was their feeling that rules were being imposed without their consideration and voice. 

We had many community discussions with kids at lunch, with parents at parent coffees, and we held parent education evenings with our very talented Social and Emotional Learning teachers facilitating discussion with parents about how to create agreements in the home. This turned the tide.

Cell Phones Increasingly a Class Act: “[W]ith cell phones tucked in the book bags and pockets of three-fourths of today’s teens, many high schools are ceding defeat in the battle to keep hand-held technology out of class and instead are inviting students to use their phones for learning,” writes Chicago Tribune reporters Tara Malone and Lisa Black. “‘It’s one of those things — if you can’t beat them, join them,’ said Jill Bullo, principal of Wheaton North High School, which plans to review its policy this year.”

Here’s one good example of how schools are educating teachers—and students—about responsibility, etiquette and educational use:

In writing new cell phone rules, some schools offer training seminars to show teachers how to make good use of the gadgets.

Glenbrook North High School now provides sessions for teachers on “how can you leverage what they have in their pockets,” technology coordinator Ryan Bretag said. They have similar primers for students. The north suburban district began allowing students to use cell phones at their teacher’s discretion when they revamped the personal technology policy last year.

Glenbrook senior John Cram pulled out his phone during a lab experiment in his material science class this fall. He wanted to measure the porosity of a cupcake. Using the camera in his cell phone, Cram took a picture, emailed it to himself and then imported the image to Photoshop, where he could more precisely measure each air pocket to calculate the cupcake’s porosity.

“It was out of necessity, really. It was just a natural step,” Cram said of turning to his cell phone.

Science teacher Nathan Unterman said he allows students like Cram to use their cell phones during a lab or class exercise just as they might use a Bunsen burner or microscope. He draws the line at tests, though.

Also check out this graphic of cell phone use in schools, based on a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Calling Yesterday, Texting Today, Using Apps Tomorrow: The Nielsen Company has released a new report on how teens use their mobile phones. Text messaging is the number one reasons teens get cell phones, surpassing safety, and they’re putting them to good use. Consider these numbers: Teens age 13 to 17 send or receive an average of 3,339 texts a month—more than six per every hour they’re awake – an 8 percent jump from 2009.

Teen girls in that age range text the most—sending and receiving an average of 4,050 texts per month; teen males send and receive an average of 2,539 texts. Young adults (age 18-24) come in second, exchanging a mere 1,630 texts per month.

Data usage is on the rise, with 94 percent of teen subscribers self-identifying as advanced data users, using their cellphones for messaging, internet, multimedia, gaming, and other activities like downloads. Usage has increased fourfold since 2009, with teen boys using more data than teen girls.

Seven Essential Skills You Didn’t Learn in College: How well would you do in classes such as statistical literacy, remix culture or domestic tech?

Wired Magazine explains what these skills are, why they’re needed and what you’ll learn in class.

Will Technology Kill the Academic Calendar?: Or, more specifically, with online, self-paced classes lead the demise? Open class formats that don’t involve group discussion are a “controversial approach to online education —one that is gaining traction at some colleges,” writes Marc Perry in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Supporters see the self-paced model as a means to serve more students, since no one is turned away because of a full section, missed deadline, or canceled class. Others criticize go-it-alone learning as a second-rate system that leaves students in greater danger of dropping out.”



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