OPPOSE PA HB 363: A Letter to My State Representative

As you may have heard from any number of educators earlier today, a few Pennsylvania State Representatives have introduced PA HB 363 on February 11, 2009, (the final day of PETE&C) in an effort to ban cell phones from all facets of education, including allowing students to carry these devices with them at ANY school sponsored activity, including dances and sporting events. I urge all Pennsylvanians to contact your State Representative and tell them to OPPOSE PA HB 363! Here is the letter I sent to my State Representative:

Today, I was forwarded information on PA House Bill 363, which proposes to ban student cell phones from schools. As an educator, I cannot support this idea. Cell phones are no longer just devices for making phone calls. These are devices that teachers across the state are integrating into their classrooms, and it is highly engaging to out students. I have begun integrating into two of my classrooms to great success, and the students in my other class are now demanding that I do the same for them. As an educator, I have to make sure that I am able to reach my students in a way that will get the most out of them, and the students in my school have let it be known that they want to learn how to be productive with these devices. They want to learn how to be more productive with cell phones, and believe it or not, they do care about learning proper etiquette for use, as well.

I have been a huge proponent of cell phones in education and have spent a good portion of the past year promoting the benefits of allowing these devices in schools. I have been collaborating with educators across the country to provide uses for these devices. There are man great plans already out there, and educators are being more and more innovative in their integration every day.

Recently, I have presented at a tech director's meeting for IU 13 and at the annual Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE&C) about the issues that have been brought up from allowing cell phones in schools. Almost every single issue can be narrowed to a problem with structured use, not with cell phones. When calculators were first introduced into education, there was a lot of push back, but now you cannot have a math class without them. Computers were considered to have no place in the everyday classroom. Today, we have made the biggest strides in our classrooms that to the Classrooms for the Future grant. Both of these devices were met with trepidation, but it was structure and innovative educators and leaders that have turned those tools into must-haves for all students.

This same issue exists with cell phones (and other portable electronic devices such as iPods, mini-camcorders such as the Flip, and PDAs). Yes, they can be distracting. Yes, there could be issues with improper use. However, with the proper structure, these issues will become non-issues. Not only that, but as educator, I have a responsibility to provide the best education to each and every student. If I were to restrict their learning environment, I would be cheating them out of their future and limiting their potential.

I urge you to oppose PA House Bill 363, which proposes to ban these devices from all school functions. Not only will this be limiting what teachers can to best educate our students. You will also find that many parents will oppose this bill. At Annville-Cleona, we have a more lenient cell phone policy which allows our students to carry them as long as they are turned off, and allows teachers to allow their use within a structured environment. However, we have had to deal with many parent complaints that they want their kids to be able to send them messages during the day, such as at lunch. Our parents want their kids to have their cell phones with them at all times. On top of that, the bill is banning students from carrying the devices at all school sponsored activities. This would include sporting events where students are spectators, and even on buses on the way back from participating in sporting events. As a soccer coach, I like the fact that my players can call their parents when we are 10 minutes away from the school so that neither the parent or student is waiting for the ride home.

I am more than willing to continue a dialouge on this issue, and am willing to even come to Harrisburg to speak with any number of Representatives that may have questions. I know there are educators just like me statewide that feel the same way, especially my fellow CFF Coaches. Many of us have been sending letters today already. Each Representative could easily find CFF Coaches in their own district to speak with about this issue.

Again, please oppose PA House Bill 363.

James Lamb, Jr.
Annville-Cleona Secondary School
Mathematics Department
Classrooms for the Future Coach
717.867.7700 ext. 4213
Skype: jimbo.lamb
iChat/AIM: MrLambMath
twitter: misterlamb
delicious/diigo: misterlamb

Cell Phones in Education: An obstacle

I have just been sent a link that may provide a huge obstacle to my passion of integrating cell phones into the classroom, and it is called PA House Bill No. 363. This bill is being referred to the Committee on Education to amend "the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14)" which banned student pagers from schools, with the exception of emergency workers and medical reasons. This bill is aiming to apply the same restrictions to cell phones. Here is the proposed wording. Italics are new wordings, while [brackets] are removed wordings.
13 Section 1317.1. Possession of [Telephone Pagers] Electronic

14 Devices Prohibited.--(a) The possession by students of

15 telephone paging devices, commonly referred to as beepers,

16 cellular telephones and portable electronic devices that record

17 or play audio or video material shall be prohibited on school

18 grounds, at school sponsored activities and on buses or other

19 vehicles provided by the school district.

20 (b) The prohibition against beepers and cellular telephones

21 contained in subsection (a) shall not apply in the following

22 cases, provided that the school authorities approve of the

23 presence of the beeper or cellular telephone in each case:

24 (1) A student who is a member of a volunteer fire company,

25 ambulance or rescue squad.

26 (2) A student who has a need for a beeper or cellular

27 telephone due to the medical condition of an immediate family

28 member.

29 Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.
I urge each and every educator in PA to contact the Representatives that introduced the amendment to the bill, as well as the members of the Committee on Education to inform them of the immense mistake it would be to apply this amendment. Inform them of the great things that the educators in this state are doing with cell phones both in and out of the classroom. Remind them that the devices are not the problem, but the improper use is, and that we cannot continue on in education ignoring devices such at this, both as educational tools as well as the need to make sure today's youth are being taught proper use of these devices for their own safety, as well as proper etiquette and use.

Here are the names (click for contact) of the Representatives whose names are on the bill, as well as those on the Committee on Education.

Angel Cruz, D, District 180
Rosita C. Youngblood, D, District 198
T. Mark Mustio, R, District 44
Thomas R. Caltagirone, R, District 127
Douglas G. Reichley, R,
District 134
Harry Readshaw, D,
District 36
John P. Sabatina, D,
District 174
John J. Siproth, D,
District 189
W. Curtis Thomas, D,
District 181

Find contacts for all State Representatives here. Find yours and tell them NOT to support banning cell phones in education.

Committee on Education (including contact info).

Also, sign this virtual petition.

Spread the word. Let educators decide how to run their classrooms. We need our students to have access this technology for the sake of our world!


Passion: Reflections on PETE&C

Wordle: Passion

I have learned quite a bit about passion over the past five days here at PETE&C. Passion has been one of the best things to think about as I moved through Keynotes, sessions, meals, the exhibit hall, and connection with my PLN.

It started on Saturday, with the CFF Coaches preconference. We met Steve Sassaman, who gave us so many things to think about as we return to our districts and set out to continue working with our teachers. And Steve had a passion for what he was talking about. As he was talking throughout the afternoon, I couldn't help but think about how I could make changes to what I do to better communicate to the staff at school as to what I could do for them. Just from the opening skit where he and Suzanne Loftus (CFF Coach from Council Rock) demonstrated how words left unsaid can lead to misconceptions about both parties, I was able to realize that whatever it is that I mean to say, I should say it how I mean it. I can't assume that others will know what I can do unless I come out and say, "This is what I can do." Steve had us for almost 4 hours, and there was a short break built into his time, but I did not find myself counting down the minutes to break. The time came, he let us decompress for the break, and when it was time to get back to his presentation, we all sat back down and got right back into it. He had us because he had passion.

Sunday, our school helped to host the preconference sessions. I went in to school to assist with any issues that came up, as well as to complete my sub plans for the rest of the week. I saw people presenting 6-hour workshops on things they were passionate about. They shared freely, knowing that they were sharing their passion. This passion will lead to new uses in new classrooms, leading students to new knowledge, and hopefully, new passion.

Monday, the main conference began at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. The opening Keynote didn't really appeal to me. I think this was partly due to the fact that Jason Ohler seemed to be speaking more toward the elementary audience, as opposed to things I was interested in. I'm sure that when I go back and review his Keynote materials that I will find things that I can identify with, but his presentation didn't connect directly with me. However, I couldn't help but notice his passion. The zeal with which he spoke, the energy that he exuded, his willingness to share, that's what I got from the Keynote.

Throughout the remainder of the day Monday, I wandered from session to session, collaborated with those in my PLN, and spoke with vendors, and in each, I experienced a different passion. In the sessions, I saw passion for allowing students to become school leaders as part of a student tech team. There was passion for making sure we were providing students with an education of safety while being part of the online community. On the exhibit floor, I saw passion toward providing new, innovative solutions to old problems. I saw passion for services that were being offered. Passion towards providing a higher education to our teachers so they could provide a better education for our students. And from my PLN (twitter friends, CFF Coaches, new connections), I saw a passion for advancing education. I saw passion toward being the innovators that are willing to share, educate, take risks, make connections, collaborate, give credit to others, learn, and be the leaders in education that make our schools something that we haven't seen before.

I was able to share one of my new passions. I took the lead in a Birds of a Feather session, where I facilitated a discussion on cell phones in education. I could go on for hours about what these devices can offer us. The discussion went for an hour and a half, and then I was approached after the session and continued to have the discussion with others over the next hour (and the next two days). I had a few educators ask if I would be willing to speak to teachers and administrators in their area in the future. Of course I'm willing! It's my passion!

Tuesday we had Daniel Pink as our Keynote, where he shared his passion for education, but from an outsider's perspective. The biggest thing I got from him was that we need to find ways to join the two sides of our brains. We need to find ways to be logical and creative to find new ways to solve the problems that are presented today.

Today was a Keynote from Rafe Esquith, and it was one of the most powerful presentations I have seen. I can't even begin to describe the passion this man has, but I can say that there were numerous times where he and his students brought the audience to tears. I know he reached every teacher in the room when he talked about how we often don't know the difference we may make in our students' lives. And we continue doing it for less pay than we deserve. And each year, we continue to improve our methods in the hopes that we can offer more and more for our students. And we do it due to our passion.

I know that I will continue to do what I must do to improve the things I do in my classroom. I will continue to fight for a full-time position as a technology integrator in my district so that I can provide the support that our teaching staff needs to best meet the needs of our students. I will continue looking for new ways to include cell phones and iPods in education. I will remain connected to my PLN at all times, no matter where I am, not because I can, but because I need to in order to drive my passion.

And here I am, reflecting on PETE&C. The conference at Hershey is over, but the new and existing connections will continue. The passions we all have will be shared. More innovation will be introduced into education and we will all be there to support each other. And when we think we might be done, we'll all sit down and realize that we have just begun, no matter how much we have accomplished. And it will be our passion that drives us to continue.

LIVE: Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow, Today

I will be doing a Cover It Live blog of this session at PETE&C. Check here at 11:00 to take part in the conversation.

LIVE: Students’ online behavior? Are they at risk?

I will be doing a Cover It Live blog of this session at PETE&C. Check here at 9:45 to take part in the conversation.