I was reading Scott McLeod's Dangerously Irrelevant blog post about video footage that high school students secretly took with their cell phones during class. Scott posed the question, "Cell phone cameras in the K-12 classroom: Punishable offenses or student-citizen journalism?" There is a fantastic discussion occurring in the comments, everything from praising the students for holding teachers accountable to being horrified that students would secretly record their teachers via cell phone. I tend to think this is another reason why it is so important to teach cell phone etiquette and safety early in education, and to acknowledge that the cell phone can cause harm as well as good. I equate the concept of cell phones as a "tool" or "toy" to that of Alfred Nobel who started the Nobel Prize. Nobel also invented dynamite for the sole purpose of help in mine work. Yet some claim dynamite is not a good invention because it can also cause destruction. Therefore people needed to be educated on how to handle the dynamite and control it. I think the same could be said of students with cell phones, they have such potential to be great learning tools, but the tool can also be used to cause harm to others (such as taking videos without consent and posting them to YouTube).
While reading the comments I came across one that pointed to an Australian organization called Droga5 (developed by David Droga) about a new project they started in New York schools called Million Project. The project pilot was launched at New York's KIPP charter schools last Fall. The idea is that every student in a New York city school is given a cell phone, which they will use in school for learning and outside of school for both learning and social communication. My understanding is that there is a rewards system to the phone (the better a student does in school, the more calling minutes they receive). While it is not necessarily a cell phone anyone can purchase at a mobile store (the Million phones have special controls built-in such as a "school mode" to prohibit certain activities during the school day, but allow educational use of the phones), I'm really excited to read the results of the pilot!
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Cell Phones in Learning by Liz Kolb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at cellphoneseinlearning.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cellphonesinlearning.com.