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Posts Tagged ‘phone

Here are two contrasting video answers to whether our phones are addictive.


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The first asks a question and provides answers based on what current models and research on addiction reveal.

The second already has an answer, likely one garnered from a straw poll or popularity contest. The outcome was assured, regardless of the facts. For example, it confused engagement with addiction.

The sad fact is that fewer people might eventually watch the first video and learn how addiction is defined. Instead, they might stick with the easy and lazy answers instead of the more nuanced and difficult ones.

Banksy’s tweet below was a call to use the lenses in your eyes instead of the lenses in your phone to process life events.

It is easy to sigh and complain that “young people” or “millennials” are staring at their phones instead of paying attention to each other or what is around them. It is more difficult to see things through their eyes.

Who are we to judge? Your parents complained about your time on the corded phone or television. They also had negative things to say about your taste in music and clothes. Anything of theirs was nostalgically good while yours is alarmingly questionable.

No, you do not have to put down your phone to enjoy life. Life is not just what exists outside the phone. Some moments are best enjoyed through it.

There are FaceTime calls with loved ones that you are separated from by physical distance, but not technological distance.

There is the capturing of significant moments in life like first steps, graduation, a new home, and eye-opening trips.

There is information and intellectual connection you can make via YouTube and social media.

The larger issue is awareness of context. There are times to look up, look down, or both. It is about knowing when, not applying a blanket rule to cover every situation.

There is so much world to see and so much life to experience. Why make it either-or instead of taking in all that life has to offer?

Last week, a local newspaper tried to brew a storm in a teacup by reporting that a parent sues school for refusing to return confiscated phone for three months.

This is the sort of headline and article that only helps a newspaper sell more ads. It does not help change the rhetoric, mindset, or behaviour around phone use in schools.

One predictable reaction to this was the “parents nowadays” sort.

Another set of reactions, in a follow-up article by the same paper, was parents that sided with the schools that have strict rules about phone use. The common refrain seemed to be that such rules “minimise distraction and temptation”.

I do not buy that. Nor do I agree that “such confiscations can be ‘teachable moments’” about school rules or for “values like responsibility, respect and self-control”.

I am not saying there should be no rules. I am saying that these rules are a relic function of schooling when they should be more about the current and future.

Let’s break the issues down logically.

When people focus on distraction and temptation, what they actually want is for students to pay attention to their teachers.

Students of all ages through the ages have been distracted when the lessons are not interesting, meaningful, or challenging. We are asking them to pay attention when the product and process do not seem to be worth the price.

As phones are much more interesting, meaningful, or challenging, they become the “distraction” from the teacher or “temptation” away from the lesson. The blame is placed on the student and the phone instead of the teacher and the teaching.

When a student gets caught for giving the phone more attention, it is an opportunity to teach and reinforce a school rule and not much more. Learners are unlikely to learn responsibility, respect, or self-control if the phone is taken away from them because there is no circumstance and context for them to develop and practice those values.

Learners needs to have the phone to decide they should pay attention or not. They need to read contextual cues to decide if the use of the phone when someone is doing their best to teach them is irresponsible or disrespectful. This is how they learn self-control.

It might help to view these values as skills-in-action instead of fuzzy concepts. Phone use is the context and circumstance to practice these skills, just as planes and flying are the context and circumstance for pilots to get good at what they do.

In a phone-free environment, there is no pressure for teachers to teach differently. For example:

  • Why teach what is Googleable when it is more important to think about what you might find online?
  • Why limit learners to consumption when creating, sharing, and critiquing are more powerful ways of learning?
  • Why keep teaching in the artificial confines of the classroom walls when phones can make those walls transparent or break them down?

I wonder if the newspaper could instead feature what academic purposes of phones in classes might be. (Hint: See my questions above.) This could go some way in educating themselves and parents that phone use is not all bad.

It is telling that parents, school authorities, and other stakeholders focus on the negatives of phone use. It is just as telling that the newspaper opted to focus on schools that disallow phone use when there are other schools here that have more reasonable usage policies. The paper seemed to grudgingly report that:

ST understands that most polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education do not ban the use of phones on campus, though students are discouraged from using them for non-academic purposes in classes.

I wonder if it did its homework in finding out how many primary and secondary schools have more logical phone usage policies. My interaction with different schools and education institutes here, thought limited, has revealed a riot of colours instead of the monotone grey presented by the newspaper.

In siding with an old school message, the paper reported:

Acknowledging that some parents may be concerned about their child’s well-being, most schools also have payphones or alternative arrangements for parents who want to contact their children urgently while they are in school, such as calling the school office.

If a message is truly urgent, why delay it with unnecessary intermediaries? There could be circumstances that require some protocol, but even world leader open themselves via social media and modern organisations flatten hierarchy for more direct reach.

Furthermore, the well-being of a child is not restricted to when he or she is in school. Some rely on public transport and the phone is a lifeline in the event of delays, emergencies, or just plain checking in.
 

 
In 1982, ET needed to “phone home” in order to return to his home planet. A communication device was a lifeline to where ET needed to be.

Current phones are where the learner of today is at and indicative of where they need to be. They are periodic tools and everyday instruments for learning how to be: How to think, act, and behave.

Restricting or banning their use might provide the so-called “teachable moments”. However, such moments are not necessarily learnable ones. The latter are powerful, meaningful, and interesting to the learner. These are the same properties we might afford a phone. Instead of turning them away, we should be embracing them.

We let ET phone home. We should let our students phone home, too, with the ET (educational technology) that they already carry in their pockets and bags.

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One can learn much from painful events.

Case in point: My wife just had extensive oral surgery and the surgeon needed a good light source. The proper light was not good enough, so he told an assistant to use his iPhone’s flash as a torch.
 

 
The phone light was not just useful in a pinch. It was better than the tool that was designed to throw light into an oral cavity. So the unofficial and unsanctioned tool just made sense.

If you think about it, we use our phones in our daily lives for so many functions that used to require separate tools, e.g., GPS for a car, camera for snapshots, media player for your commute or run, etc.

It no longer makes sense for most people to have a separate and standalone tool when one Swiss Army knife-like tool is small, light, and oh-so-useful. It also helps that this new Swiss Army knife is better than the old tools.
 

 
But mention using phones in many classrooms today and they still tend to be treated with caution, suspicion, or fear.

Phones in the context outside most classrooms have basic but essential utility. If the excuse is that the classroom is unlike what it outside of it, then just how relevant and connected is that classroom?

The classroom of today does not just need torch (flash) lights, cameras, or media players. It requires wall breakers in the form of Web browsers, social media and communication apps, and publishing tools. These create opportunities for context and authentic issues to enter classrooms.

If you say that phones are a distraction in the classroom, then you are retreating further into the hole you have dug there. Let me share my phone with you. It has a torch and a Web browser. Both will shed light on why phones belong inside a classroom if you are use them well.

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Over the last two days, I have been reflecting on my son’s journeys during his school’s week-long end of term programme and his vacation homework.

He and his school mates enjoyed a week of adventure in the form of rope course challenges, a farm visit, and preparing simple meals. Other events like geo-caching or boat racing either did not happen or were cancelled due to the weather.

Depending on the activity, the rule was either no phones or its use was not encouraged. I thought this was a shame because it was a lost learning opportunity.

If you think like most adults, you might argue that you want students to live in and enjoy the moments. Who would not? But if you think only like that, then you are missing the opportunity to teach them how to manage themselves.

Teachers need to reconsider the balance between being in the moment and capturing meaningful moments. A phone ban is tilted all the way to the left; ill-disciplined use to the right.

Phones today are the equivalent of notebooks and pencils. They are an important way, perhaps the only way, for students to first capture what is happening and what they are experiencing, and then to think about it.

We do not learn from experiences. We learn from reflecting on experiences. -- John Dewey.

When students are in the moment, they are not necessarily thinking about the experience, considering what they are learning, making connections with prior knowledge, and so on. Furthermore, if they are not given the opportunity to record their thoughts and feelings, there is little, if anything, to reflect on.

There is another lost opportunity if students cannot take notes. They are not able to share their experiences with another set of important people in their lives — their parents.

Thankfully kids who could not participate could capture one particular moment on the last day of son’s series of experiences. The original photos were a bit blurry, but I created a simple montage with the mobile app, Layout [iOS] [Android], anyway.

Ropes course.

My wife and I enjoyed seeing our son have fun. Thanks to these and other photos, we could share in his experiences and discuss what challenges he faced and how he felt. We could observe his growth and shape his learning.

My son and his friends take photos and videos all the time and they do not realise that they are doing the equivalent of “taking notes”. They also share and comment on these artefacts in WhatsApp shortly after. The immediacy is important because moments are fleeting. But with WhatsApp they have both the evidence and their thoughts recorded for as long as they want.

Banning or discouraging phones (and any other technology for that matter) is a net loss for capturing moments and reflecting on them. They are the modern equivalent of taking notes and referring to them later. We would not prevent students from taking paper notes then, so why prevent them from taking moderns notes now?

Is it passé to say that mobile is important?

After all, practically everyone in the first world has at least one mobile device, you can order practically anything with your phone, and your phone connects you to practically anyone.

Unless you are in school, even in the first world.

No phone zone.

Far more articulate scholars and thought leaders have written and spoken about the importance of mobile in education. They are merely a search away — on your phone no less. However, most schools have, or remain, no phone zones.

So how about something more emotional to connect with that idea. You probably sleep with your phone near you. What happens if you drop it? BuzzFeed found out with this prank.


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How important is mobile in schooling? You can and should seek answers from rigorous academic research and reflective practice. But the answers should also connect with you as an individual and with each teacher and student.

Take someone’s phone away or threaten to harm it and see what the reactions are. Their phones are their lives. So why should their use in schools be any different?


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Now this is entertaining. Kids born in the 2000s were asked to use a relic of the 20th century, a rotary phone. I can still remember my six-digit home phone number…

Listen to their comments, giggle at their puzzled looks, and watch them struggle. Throw in a cassette tape while you are at it.

For entertainment value, this is priceless. As a lesson for the kids on recent technological history, it might have been an eye-opener.

But here is a question for teachers: Are you still in rotary phone mode when we already have smartphones today?


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