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'Banning Is Not the Answer' to Mobile and Social Tools in Schools

Before choosing to restrict the use of social and mobile tools in schools, policymakers and education leaders have to consider the negative impact such restrictions will have on learning. That's the premise of a new policy report released jointly this week by more than a dozen prominent education associations and advocacy groups.

The report, "Making Progress: Rethinking State and School District Policies Concerning Mobile Technologies and Social Media," was released by more than a dozen major education and ed tech groups, including the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the FrameWorks Institute, which produced the report, along with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the National Education Association (NEA), the Student Press Law Center, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the National Writing Project, the National Council of Teachers of English, Common Sense Media, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. It was funded through an award from the MacArthur-UCHRI Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the University of California, Irvine.

The goal of the report, its authors argued, was not to prescribe specific policies but to illuminate issues that need to be considered--both positive and negative--in order to help bring policy in line with the needs of education and realities of technological world in which students live.

"In today's world, most students are attached to mobile devices of some kind whether in or out of school. When policy and practice are aligned, the amazing possibilities presented by this fact surely outweigh the challenges. Creating that alignment is our first step," said NASBE Deputy Executive Director Bradley J. Hull in a separate statement released to coincide with the report.

Social and Mobile Technologies: Current Realities
The report cited five "critical observations" related to the use of social and mobile tools in schools, both supporting their use and acknowledging the need to address issues related to their use. These included:

1. Social media and mobile devices are already in widespread use by students, and schools are beginning to adapt their own policies to take advantage of students' current interest in technology.

2. Mobile technologies and social media offer "tremendous" educational benefits, including bridging formal and informal learning, providing access to educational resources students otherwise wouldn't be able to use, and offering the ability to learn lifelong technology skills, among others.

3. Some federal, state, and local policies do not match up with current realities and need clarification or updating in light of current social trends and technological advancements.

4. Advocates of social and mobile technology need to address negative behaviors that are sometimes associated with these technologies, including the use of technology tools in bullying, along with self-destructive behavior and poor decision-making on the part of minors whose actions can have lifelong consequences. The report's authors pointed out that schools provide a unique opportunity for students to use their favorite tools in a supervised, mentored environment.

5. Equity issues need to be addressed. BYOD programs, for example, some students will not have the financial resources to supply their own equipment. Similarly, Internet access can be an issue. "Failure to address this will create a critical fault line in the differential learning opportunities available to students and, potentially, leave some groups of students ill prepared to join our country’s 21st-century workforce," the report argued.

"Mobile technologies and social media, if leveraged appropriately, have the potential to maximize student learning and engagement, and transform the concept of the classroom from four walls to an interactive space where student-centered learning takes place," said Frameworks Institute President Susan Bales, also in a prepared statement. "While there are a variety of challenges, there are enormous opportunities, and if we--educators, technology leaders and school decision makers--find ways to harness the power of these tools, the benefits to our young people and our education system are countless. There are also legitimate concerns that must be addressed, but they must be weighed against the potential benefits."

Considerations for Policymakers
The report also made four suggestions for policymakers and stakeholders to consider when looking at practices surrounding the use of technology in schools.

1. The first: "Banning is not the answer." Rather, a more balanced approach to access is called for.

"The first generation of policymaking around communication technology in schools has been built on a foundation of fear, and it's time to push 'reboot' and institute 'Policymaking 2.0' built on facts and research instead. Education is something we do 'with' students and not something we do 'to' students," said Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, also in a prepared statement.

2. Second, the function of acceptable use policies needs to be revisited. AUPs, the report's authors argued, should focus on "policy goals that go beyond the narrow set of Web site access issues that were the primary focus of many earlier AUPs."

"The 'Making Progress' document supports a vision of schools that amplifies the use of mobile and connective technologies from restrictive or 'acceptable' to 'responsible,'" said Bob Farrace, NASSP senior director for communications and development.

"The rapid pace of technological developments and changing attitudes about appropriate ways to communicate online, personal privacy, and freedom of speech present school leaders and policy-makers with an evolving set of challenges from the classroom to the boardroom. [The 'Making Progress' report] encourages thoughtful conversations before a crisis occurs so the promise and potential of these new tools will not be lost in the rush to try and right some unfortunate wrong," said NSBA Director of Education Technology Ann Lee Flynn.

3. Schools should use the adoption of social and mobile tools as an opportunity to reach students on issues of digital citizenship, digital literacy, and responsible use of online tools in a supervised environment.

"At Common Sense Media, we recognize how social media is changing and enriching the way kids learn and discover the world around them--both in and out of the classroom," said Linda Burch, chief education and strategy officer at Common Sense Media. "We also know how important it is for districts to develop comprehensive policies to ensure that students can harness technology to its full potential, which includes arming students with the right skills and knowledge to use social media safely and responsibly."

"Many young people are already active digital consumers, but school is often the place where they learn to be critical, reflective, and powerful digital citizens. But to do that, students and teachers need to be able to read, write, search, and collaborate with broad access to wide range of Web 2.0 tools," said National Writing Project National Programs and Site Development Director Elyse Eidman-Aadahl.

"The Partnership for 21st Century Skills supports CoSN's work to help schools and school districts responsibly and effectively integrate mobile technologies and social media into the learning environment. As reinforced by the report, when used appropriately, these technologies can help students facilitate the 4Cs--communication, collaboration, critical thinking skills and creativity, key 21st Century Skills all students need to succeed in college, life, and career. It is important to help students understand the power and potential peril of these new technologies as part of their overall information, media, and technology skills attainment," said Lillian Kellogg, P21 chair and vice president of Education Networks of America.

4. And finally, professional development is crucial to the successful adoption of any technology and should be emphasized to support mobile and social initiatives, focusing in particular on legal, ethical, and practical issues.

"Technology in the classroom can enhance what and how a student learns and helps teachers cater to the unique needs, skills, interests, and learning styles of their students," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, also in a prepared statement. "But educators must be provided with professional development in digital technology in order to learn how best to engage students in and out of the classroom using these tools. This is also an opportunity for parents and school personnel to work together to teach all students responsibility and how to make good decisions regarding the appropriate use of mobile devices."

In addition to observations and policy suggestions, the report provides snapshot profiles of schools that are making a positive impact on students through the use of technology, along with a resource directory highlighting the successful use of social media and mobile devices in schools, examples of acceptable use policies, and other resources for schools looking to explore the use of mobile and social tools as a part of education.

The complete report is available as a free download in PDF form from CoSN's site.

About the Author

Executive Producer David Nagel heads up the editorial department for 1105 Media's education publications — which include two daily sites, a variety of newsletters and two monthly digital magazines covering technology in both K-12 and higher education.

A 21-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192 or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education). A selection of David Nagel's articles can be found on this site.


Comments

Thu, Feb 21, 2013

My debate topic is electronic devices in school con, and I'm looking for good non blog websites that will give me good information for the debate. If any one knows any, can you tell me please.

Wed, Apr 25, 2012

It's not that it "may" happen. It DOES happen and it happens daily. Any teacher or administrator who thinks their students are using their personal cell phones ethically and morally 100% of the time is fooling themselves. Students are playing games, watching movies, shooting videos and taking pictures of all kinds of things all the time in classrooms without the teachers' knowledge. Is the teacher to blame? No way! There is NO WAY the teacher can be looking at what is happening on 30 different cell phones at once. This is why companies make software to monitor school networks. Unfortunately, they only work on school-owned devices. Student conversation just a few hours ago: "While my teacher thinks I'm listening to my music during the test, I'm actually listening to an MP3 I made last night of all the answers on the test. My buddy took a picture of the test yesterday in class and sent it to me last night." This is not an uncommon occurance. How do we stop this and still be using the technology young adults need? My son's school has multiple desktop computers in each classroom, a traveling set of laptops, a traveling set of iPads (without cameras), and a few iPhones (all software controlled by the school) so they can interact with SmartBoard displays. Are the students learning how modern technology can change their lives? Yes. Are they learning how to be 21st Century thinkers and doers? Yes. Are the students working to become independent learners who can Google answers to their questions whenever they want? Yes! Are they getting all of the positives out of these devices without any of the negatives? You bet! Schools can be effective users of technology and still create a safe environment at the same time. Banning completely without supplying technology? Bad idea. Allowing everything without monitoring capabilities? Bad idea. The answer to this is somewhere in the middle.

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 Kim Maryland

Children need to learn how to use these technologies appropriately --- afterall, some of their parents haven't learned to turn off their devices or switch to vibrate during meetings and presentations. It's a shame that, as a producer of continuing education programs, we still have to remind our audience to silence their mobile devices. I agree, start them early learning mobile device etiquette so that we are not teaching them etiquette in professional settings and listening to their conversations on public transportation. Teach children how to use their devices for good. I encourage my child to use his smart phone whenever we are in the car and he asks "Why?" or "What is...?" There is something to be said for, "Google it" and then we'll talk about it. I think it is making him a more independent and critical thinker.

Sat, Apr 21, 2012

The one thing I wonder about as I read comments about how students will use the technology for negative or inappropriate thing is: how else will they learn what is appropriate if we do not teach them. To those that feel we need to keep mobile computing devices out of schools I ask- should we keep our children in a bubble or should we teach them how to be responsible citizens? Keeping the technology out of school just because student "may" use it in a way that is inappropriate is not the answer. Specific boundries with appropriate consequences are the way to go.

Tue, Apr 17, 2012

Just a quick question for any classroom teachers or administrators who may be reading this... If cell phones are allowed in every classroom at all times, how do avoid MAJOR issues concerning students access to pornography (which can be controlled on school technology but not student-owned technology) and cheating (taking pictures of tests/finals/state assessments, and then passing them on to the entire school)?

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 wiseguy Alabama

Student cell phones are NOT the property of the school. You will never be able to completely/successfully "regulate" them. With that in mind, if a school system is willing to accept the idea that the benefits of allowing cell phones outweigh the risks then they reap what they sow. Please don't use the raionale here that we have to teach students to be responsible users of technology in a digtal age. That can already be done with the technologies we currently have in place. They only thing people can't do with dektop computers that you can do with phones is call people or instant message. Oh wait, yes you can....This has never been an issue about cell phones IN education. It's always been about kids being able to have cell phones at school.

Sun, Apr 15, 2012 @digitalsandbox1 Kansas

The primary responsibility of every school district is to ensure that the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is being followed.  The law requires any school district that receives E-Rate funding to filter or block visual depictions that are obscene, that contain child pornography, or material harmful to minors. This law does not restrict the use of social networking sites or the use of web 2.0 tools. What the law does require is that school districts have in place an internet safety policy  that includes the use of a filter or blocking procedure for district computers used by minors.  Some districts who are operating on high end content restrictiveness through network filtering have yet to understand that CIPA was written before the emergence of Web 2.0 applications. That CIPA does not stipulate any specific requirements to block or ban the use social networking tools.  The most interesting under site of some school districts is a knowledge or awareness of the Broadband Data Improvement Act. The Broadband Data Improvement Act was written into federal law in 2008 requiring schools to follow section 215 of Protecting Children in the 21st Century. The relevancy of Protecting Children in the 21st Century specifically requires all schools to educate minors about appropriate online behavior. This includes how to interact with others on social networking sites which includes awareness and response to cyberbullying.  

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 Jane Mitchinson Canada

I'm a teacher who had fears about mobile technologies training youth to become "conditioned to be on call". It bothered me so much, I travelled to Michigan, Boston, Vancouver, Toronto, London (UK), and Edinburgh to interview experts on the subject, as well as teachers, administrators and students. My findings have been published on a website and made into a documentary. Cell phones in the classroom are a distraction when used inappropriately. But many cell phones have smart phone capabilities and act as mini-computers. They can increase productivity exponentially when used for good purpose. Besides, cell phones are already in the classroom whether the teacher knows it or not. Kids text behind their backs, under their desks and even in their pockets. Some even enjoy the challenge of not getting caught as they interact with friends in that social space that adults cannot enter. When we ban cell phones we are inviting a challenge from teens that is in their very nature to engage. We also fail to guide those teens that feel a strong compulsion to interact 24/7. Essentially, we are allowing them to be conditioned to be on call. Teachers have a wonderful opportunity to guide students through the transition into a world where digital technologies are becoming extensions of ourselves. We see students every day for a good chunk of the day and we are already role models. My students bring their cellphones, laptops and ipods to class every day. I am able to help them learn digital citizenship, social etiquette, and guide them in self-regulation and appropriate, productive use. Often we'll work in groups when not everyone has the technology. This is so beneficial as it offers a whole other layer of learning. Students have to discuss issues face to face before communicating their ideas/solutions using the technology. And, thank goodness we have wireless at school. No one has to use a costly cell phone network, though a growing majority of parents are starting to pay for their children's cell network plans anyway. http://janemitchinson.ca/?page_id=8 The experts that appear in my documentary, produced as part of my Masters work include Danah Boyd, Linda Stone, Neil Andersen, Dr. David E Meyer, and Dr. David Buckingham. Here's the link to a segment from the documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=gft_AEp9Woc

Thu, Apr 12, 2012

The question isn't whether students can be "controlled" but whether the outcomes we seek are enhanced by the tools and whether they are needed in the classroom. I know this is a technology magazine, so you would expect the readers to support its use ... I still fear they isolate students from each other and turn them toward their gadgets instead of toward each other. As long as we get the job done, I guess the manner of getting there is whatever works.

Thu, Apr 12, 2012

First of all, to the person who started by asking if any of "these people" have spent any time in the classroom, I would guess that you didn't catch the part where they mentioned their 20 - 25+ years of experience. That being said... what I feel is being overlooked in the comments is critical. Yes, it is true that schools have to "regulate" the use of digital media in the classroom, but most important, the teacher has to be "with it" and know what is going on in his/her room. I see 150+ students every day in my classroom, grades 9 - 12, all learning levels. Of course I don't know about every single thing that happens every second in every square inch of my classroom, but I can guarantee you that all of my years of experience, as well as being a mother, have honed my "radar" very well. You can tell the difference between someone who is using their phone as an ereader adn someone who is texting... i.e. use of thumbs. And if you set up a classroom in which mutual respect between students and teachers is the norm, students will make better choices more often than not. They will do what you expect when they see that you are being fair, honest, and respectful, and they will reciprocate. Get over the excuses and problems about these things being such a distraction, etc. I am willing to bet that the school that "banned" the use for next year is going to wish they hadn't about 1 month into having to deal with handing out thousands of detentions, in-school suspensions, etc. Maybe the faculty need some training in classroom management. Reacting so forcefully by banning them for next year is only setting themselves up for misery. I know... we already went through this in my school. What is the value of trying to suppress technology? Should we go back to typewriters instead of computers? At least with typewriters you can't get on the network. Please. Get with it.

Thu, Apr 12, 2012

I am all for technology in the school's. The catch is, it has to be REGULATED. School district's are regulating and monitoring their own technology as best as can be done but still with prohibited student usage issues. The problem with "mobile devices" (we all know they are including student private phones) is NO ONE has been able to monitor something they do not own. Several studies indicated that students are more distracted with their cell phone than without when learning (duh). A large school district that was one of the biggest advocates in the nation FOR student cellphone use in classes recently wrote an article and said they finally figured out how to monitor/regulate student private cellphone for educational usage in school...they banned them for next school year! Maybe if we stopped building multi-million dollar indoor practice athletic facilites and started using that money to buy IPads with school based internet, we could actually use 21st century technology. Just thinking outside the box.

Thu, Apr 12, 2012

I don't think the disagreements are regarding the use of the devices, but rather the issues they can also bring in terms of classroom management and behavioral management. Of course the devices can be used effectively with "a thousand and one" uses within various classrooms. However, it can be difficult to manage behavioral concerns with some of these devices as well.

Thu, Apr 12, 2012

For those who disagree with 21st century realities (digital), go visit the Post Office (and go get a print copy of this article). Banning digital devices at school is a denial of the fundamental shift in how we communicate. I'm glad schools and researchers are starting to catch on.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

I have been teaching since 1975 and have dealt with, survived and turned every new tech gadget and innovation into a positive learning experience for students. I currently teach 9-12 grade English and have very little problem with the inappropriate use of technology in my classroom because I set up the expectations and parameters for the use of personal tech tools at the beginning of the year. As students honor the commitments and norms we establish for tech usage, I gradually begin to allow the use of students' tech devices. Students understand that any use of technology that does not support or enhance the learning goals and targets of the class are not allowed. I always tell them that when I wrote notes in high school in the 60s that there were consequences but I was never told that my pencil and paper were banned from the classroom. The trick is to invite students into the conversation and practice of responsible tech usage. I have not been disappointed in students' responses in finding solutions to the tech problems in the classroom. Collaborating with students in setting responsible use parameters has worked for me and discipline issues concerning personal tech devices have been very minimal.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

I’m very fortunate that I am certified and teach in multiple courses that utilize technology on a regular basis. I have been teaching for twenty years, instruct freshman through seniors, at risk as well as honors students, male and female. I use the obvious desktop (pc and Mac) for - research, office apps, CAD, online simulation programs, presentations (Prezzi and Power Point), etc.. We (students and I) use IPads’ when we need to be flexible, read eBooks’ (text and reference), watch video clips From TED, assess students through student response software (eclickers), run my desktop and any software on it or access any folder or file via RDP (remote desktop protocol) on my Ipad. Oh by the way I can do 100% of all the previously mentioned on my daughters smart phone and then some - for example an application available currently only available to “Android” will allow me to program and RUN the legos NXT robots remotely through Bluetooth. The only real problem I have is the one that all others teachers have and that is time – never enough of it. I also work with other teachers - volunteer – to assist with training and implementation of tech into their curriculum. All of this is done, not with just the intent to bring in the technology but to keep the students interested, engaged, creative, and if at all possible streamline the process while improving understanding and assessments. After the initial investment of time –training – I have been able to “farm” myself out and assist those during my “duty” period. I could go on even more but it gets to a point where the point is made. These are only tools; even though they are available they are only useful with the right training in the right moment including social tools as in any other profession (doctors and their tools carpenters and theirs). Good Luck it’s easy.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 Ken Blystone West Texas

These new iPencils are driving me nuts. The students constantly use pencil technology to write notes to each other. Once students have pencils, it is hard to manage the use of these devices in the classroom. Have any of these people actually spent any time in a classroom with students distracted by using pencils to write and pass notes? Our school is seriously considering banning pencils...the original iPencil, the iPencil 2, and the new iPencil 3 with high definition graphite. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us!"

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

I disagree...there are uses for cell phones and social applications other than gossiping. This week one of my students was avidly using her cell phone. The subject which drew her undivided attention? Hugh Heffner's birthday. Her new goal in life, which she quickly shared with her friends via the FB and "tweets" was to become a "Bunny". She's 15. I've used cell phones for lessons, such as live polls, searching for information, etc. However...schools and teachers have no way to manage when and where the students are "plugged in". It has quickly grown to an addiction I doubt a 12 step program would help. (And many of the teachers are equally as distracted). Sorry, just my humble opinion.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

Have any of these people actually spent ANY time in the classroom? What makes anyone think that these devices will be used for leaning instead of gossip? Perhaps they have a purpose outside the classroom, but I can't see what they add to an in-person class....

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