|Photo by Imke Lass|
There were many outstanding activities within this presentation (including a cool Smartphone Staff Scavenger Hunt), but probably the most valuable one for me was when we separated into two smaller groups and created Socratic Circles. Within this literacy exercise, our teachers got to observe and give feedback to each other on their conversation and interactions about the positives and issues around cell/smartphones and their use in the classroom for learning. (As an aside, I strongly recommend that you try Socratic Circles--the quality of the interactions you will see on your staff are truly amazing!). I have made it evident to our staff that I encourage the use of smartphones used in the classroom, but by listening to these powerful discussions, I got a window into what some of the issues that some of our staff have with them.
Some of the issues (in no particular order):
- texting during lessons
- inappropriate picture taking
- receiving texts from parents during classtime
- inequity for those who don't have smartphones
- cost of texting plans/internet access
- radiation from wi-fi
- consistency of policy implementation from one class to the next/no common set of expectations
- the need for a class/learning objectives to teach students appropriate use of cell/smartphones in class.
- as a student agenda
- to contact parents
- to contact team/club members
- as a dictionary
- as an internet search tool
- as a voting device (with software like Polleverywhere)
- as a camera
But one of our veteran staff members made a very important and poignant comment about the process of adopting new things such as smartphones. He said "Whenever something like this comes along, we need to do THIS. We need to talk about it. We need to DISCUSS it. Whatever it is, we'll figure it out!". At that moment, I realized the most important thing--before we do anything with the Smartphones and classrooms, we need to have an open discussion with our teachers. This will allow us to make sure that we address the issues and reduce the anxiety of the people that will be working with students on the front line. The Socratic Circle exercise helped us to have a open and honest discussion on a sensitive topic that generated a number of issues and solutions. And while we are not totally "there" yet, the discussion has moved us forward.
If you have not moved down the pathway towards utilizing smartphones for student learning, I hope that this post may provide you with a template and some ideas for working with your staff on this topic. It was a great day for our school, and I am sure it will be for you too!