Sign of the Times?

Sign in High School FoyerI posted last week about the presentation I had to prepare for 150 high school teachers. I had wanted to UStream the hour-long talk, but I was unable to get access to the Internet until about thirty seconds before I began speaking. I did capture the audio using my iPod Classic and a voice recorder and I synced it with the slide show I had created. So, in the end I’ve decided to upload the entire presentation as an enhanced podcast to my Center’s page in iTunes U (make sure to click on the red circle that represents the Center for Mathematics, Science and Computer Education) where I had previously posted a series of vcasts on iPods in Ed. I recently took the vcasts down as I wasn’t happy with them, so this will be the first of many PD sessions I plan to record and share there instead. It’s 55 minutes and I wish I had footage of the teachers themselves, but it’s there if you’d like to listen to what I talked with them about and how they reacted.

Talk about reaction…

I sent Tweets out from my Blackberry throughout the morning and was very happy to have the support of my PLN. But it wasn’t until I got home and had a chance to reread the conversation that I noticed the important detail that Connie Sitterley had fed me.


To think that the idea of making lessons accessible to more students through the use of their own electronic gadgets could possibly be eliminated in an entire state? I immediately went and checked out House Bill #363. I read through Dan Callahan’s post on the topic, Damian Bariexca’s sample letter and when I read Chris Lehmann’s post I realized that this Bill, if passed, is going to impact all public schools in Pennsylvania. Even the Science Leadership Academy.

So was the high school that I spoke at last Friday morning so far from the norm? Many of my Twitter friends didn’t seem to think so. @Mswojo Tweeted that the signs at her school are laminated and hung up in each room. We communicate on about how we can use hardware, software and anything available to us to improve teaching and learning. What can these technology tools do to accommodate students that need help learning the objectives of the lesson and then how can we transfer that to the rest of our class so that the accommodations might help other students as well? I wish I had made those statements to the school administrator who commented that I should not have encouraged the teachers to use cell phones and ipods with their students since their was a ban in school. (Hmm.)

I want to help teachers make accommodations for their students.
I want to help teachers realize the resources available to them.
I want to help teachers reach a comfort with having and using technology in their classrooms.
I want to help teachers use the technology that is available to them and to their students.

If you haven’t already, please sign the petition against House Bill #363. At the time I wrote this, Sunday evening, February 16, there were only 263 signatures. We need a louder voice. For Pennsylvania schools will take a giant step backwards, in my opinion, if tools we consider every day supports, aren’t allowed in the classroom. If this happens in Pennsylvania, who knows which state will be next.

10 thoughts on “Sign of the Times?

  1. […] Thumann Resources wrote an interesting post today on Sign of the Times?Here’s a quick excerptI posted last week about the presentation I had to prepare for 150 high school teachers. I had wanted to UStream the hour-long talk, but I was unable to get access to the Internet until about thirty seconds before I began speaking. I did capture the audio using my iPod Classic and a voice recorder and I synced it with the slide show I had created. So, in the end I’ve decided to upload the entire presentation as an enhanced podcast to my Center’s page in iTunes U (make sure to click on […]

  2. I have two issues with this bill. One: what public harm does this represent? Or rather, why should a school be a place where audio and video capture does not take place? Here’s just ONE reason why teachers should be allowed to permit students to use mobile capture devices:

    But what about podcasting? Mobile web access (why have the taxpayers pay for 1:1 when in just a few years every cell phone will have Internet access?).

    Two: isn’t this a local/school issue? This would turn creative teachers and schools into lawbreakers. My school has a “no cell phones” policy that I am permitted to set aside if I’m using cell phones in an appropriate manner (PollEverywhere, Gcast). Why not just let schools create their own policies and enforce them? Are we really going to arrest students who break the law anyway? Come one, be serious. When it comes down to it, a school can set policy, consequences, and follow through when appropriate. This bill amounts to a law that will never be prosecuted except in a case when another law is broken (I recognize that a student could schedule a drug deal via cell phone – but they can do that via a piece of paper too – why not ban paper & pencil just in case?)

  3. We have schools in our district with this policy – yet the Ed Tech depart just bought and iPod cart for one of these buildings and are helping teachers find or create media to assist in differentiating curriculum for all our kids. We are piloting a wireless system in a couple of buildings so students and teachers can connect to the internet wherever they are. We also allow kids to bring their laptops to school. The policies (no phones and electronics) were in place long before anyone realized there was a educational use for these tools. There have been some great converations as we educate administrators, teachers and students about the educational and responsible use of these tools. I understand why they were (and officially are) still banned we have had too many experiences with criminal (drugs) and irresponsible (bullying) use of the tools to keep admin in a protective, defensive mode. But our policies (AUP) and class rules are beginning to change. In each case we have had to outline educational benefits, classroom/equipment management strategies and responsibilities. But the attitudes will change over time. I remember when my fellow high schools students and I protested for the right for girls to where pants to school and then a couple of years later to wear jeans. We were told dressing in such a causal manner would be detrimental to my learning. Now I can learn at home in my PJs, I wonder what my old principal would say to that.

  4. Lisa:
    It is true that electronic devices are banned on my campus and that we have laminated signs. It’s hard to believe that policies such as these exist in 2009 or that the Pennsylvania legislature is considering a statewide ban on electronic devices in schools (oh, how I wish I could sign that petition!). I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic since you posted the photo above and it occurred to me how odd it is that teachers are being told to differentiate curriculum and provide accommodations for student learning needs AND textbook publishers are now putting their books in audio format yet I am technically prevented from sharing this tool with my students to improve their achievement because it would allow students to listen to the text on an mp3 player. I don’t get it.

  5. @Chris I’m relieved to hear that your school allows exceptions for you and other teachers that use these technologies for educational purposes. I can understand having a need for policies limiting inappropriate use, but – well, you and I are on the same page for the rest of this.

    @Beth You are so right that we need to educate admins, teachers and students and by piloting programs such as yours, we have the opportunity to show what works, and what doesn’t. I think this comes back though, to what we may have even talked about at breakfast at Educon that morning – – Why are the folks without backgrounds in education making decisions that affect how we educate our students?

    @Natalie I don’t get it either. I think that’s what frustrates me the most. I’m going in circles. I do whatever I can to make materials accessible for students and then the policy makers (and the policies) make it so that I can access the materials.

    Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate your contributions to the conversation.

  6. Anthony D says:

    I cannot understand why people are so afraid to allow the use of technology in the classroom. Almost all kids have access to ipods and cell phones and I feel its time that we allow them to use them in the classroom with restrictions. If they listen to music during lunch so be it, but what not during classroom transitions, study halls and class time. If they already own the technology and spend countless hours using it why not teach them how to use it responsibly. This should be the same for all technology used in the classroom. Should we not teach them web design for fear they will create a facebook or myspace page? NO, the almost all do have one but teaching them responsibility and time and place these tools will make for a much more positive learning environment. Lets face it we are digital society and we need to embrace all technologies in the classroom.

  7. Jennifer Zimmerman says:

    My impression is that many teachers/administrators who want to keep current technology out of school are afraid of certain things happening. Stories travel about how vindictive students record teachers saying things out of context and post it on Youtube, for example. Also, we hear about how students who are immersed in texting and communicating through Facebook are losing the ability to communicate interpersonally. I could list a few more examples, too… but my main point is that we are motivated to restrict things out of fear. I think some of these concerns are valid; however, I don’t believe that restrictions are the best answer to the issue.

    As a language teacher I find some parallels here. Usually people are afraid to immerse themselves in a culture or language they don’t understand because they feel unease. But when someone begins to learn a language and is able to begin to interact with a different culture, you can get your point across and there is usually an appreciation of your effort, even if you are a novice. You’re entering into someone else’s context and trying to frame things in the way they understand it.

    It seems to me that if we learn how to use the technologies that are part of the students’ everyday life, and help them connect to skills and information by using these, it can only help our cause. Even if we begin awkwardly, if we are speaking their language in their culture we can begin to translate the essence of what we’re trying to teach in a way they can connect to. You don’t have to throw your baby out with the bathwater to begin. Kids would still be expected to demonstrate enough etiquette to turn off their iPods and cell phones when you need to talk to them or have them practice some face-to-face interaction, but how great it would be to make friends with these resources and invite them to class now and then.

    1. Jennifer – I appreciate your comments and I like the way you phrased the statement “make friends with these resources”. I hope more teachers follow your lead as we move forward.

  8. At the school where I work, that sign is painted on wood. It is made of two pieces of wood with the message on either side so that it can stand on its own in the hallway.

    Encouraging welcome, isn’t it?

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