Today was a day of cell phones for me. It started this morning when I attended the IU 13 Tech Coordinator's meeting to talk about cell phones in education. My main focus behind the presentation was to discuss why we block the use of cell phones and why we should allow them to be used in a structured environment. I have a feeling that I will be going through the presentation again and posting it as an enhanced podcast (possibly on the soon-to-be-opened IU 13 iTunes U page).
As I expressed many of the concerns that I have heard over the years as to why we should ban cell phones, I countered with statements that showed those same concerns were there before cell phones, and that the cell phone was just a new medium that we have to create the structure for use. After all, if teachers don't teach these necessary skills to our students, who will? Isn't that our job?
I moved into showing some examples as to how cell phones could be used by demonstrating Poll Everywhere through this poll, this poll, and this poll. I talked about how this tool is a mean to gather information for a teacher to determine whether the class understood the material, as opposed to waiting until the next day after a failed homework assignment or on the quiz. Then I demonstrated Gcast with a podcast I had recorded the previous night through my phone, talking about how they could be used to record observations on a field trip.
Of course, I had to talk about iPhones and iPod Touches and the Apple App Store (while mentioning that other smartphones were getting similar stores) and the educational apps that were available at their fingertips, many for free!
I finished my presentation by discussing things we have already dealt with in schools. We made the switch from slide rule to calculators, but there were those that said they would never catch on in education. Today, they allow educators to focus more on interpreting data and delving deeper into what the mathematics can tell us as opposed to medial, repetitive tasks. Sex education was once a highly discussed issue. We all hope that our children and students will abstain and wait until they are mature and fully ready for sex, yet at the same time, we know that many will have sex. But we don't just teach abstinence. We teach safe sex because we want our students to protect themselves and make smart decisions. Are we going to tell our students to abstain from cell phone use, or are we going to step up and teach them how to properly use them?
Later in the day, after I got back to school and was preparing materials for my substitute the next day, I noticed twitter messages about Flight 1549 going down in the Hudson. Of course, my first reaction was worry for those who were lost and how this would bring back fears of flying and worry of terrorist attacks.
But then I tuned into CNN to view the coverage and saw a plane floating in the water, with ferries and other boats swarming to and from it. It was a spectacular site seeing how quick the response was and the willingness of everyone to help. And as I was watching CNN, they kept showing photos from cell phones of the rescue process. As the place went down in New York City, there were potentially millions of witnesses. This potential tragedy has now turned into one of the greatest real-world learning experiences we have ever encountered in aviation.
Think about this. The pilot was able to basically land the plane safely in water, keeping the plane intact, for the most part. The flight crew and passengers acted immediately to open doors and work on getting out of the plane. That in and of itself is highly beneficial for the airline industry in training of their employees.
But the thing that could be most beneficial is the abundance of data that is now available about what happened. Every single person who used their cell phone to snap pictures of what was going on, or everyone who call 911 when they saw the plane going down has helped to contribute data to learning how to deal with other similar situations. Had this happened ten years ago, we would not have been able to share anywhere near this much data.
So I continue my quest to promote the positives of cell phones in our society. I will continue to fight on behalf of allowing the use of cell phones in education (in and out of the classroom) and our need to take charge and teach proper use of these wonderful devices.