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


Timothy Kuhn said...

terrific job at the HU Clinic Presentations yesterday. You made great points and came thru very strong.

Jimbo Lamb said...

Thanks. I think it is important to continue to promote the proper use of any tool that can have a great benefit on out students.