Two Biggest Obstacles to Educational Innovation: Filters and Bans

cell phone, interruptedImage by woodleywonderworks via FlickrListen up Educators: Excellence in education is not what you're keeping out, it's about what are you letting in!

The Speak up 2010 results are in and out in the US Congress. The biggest obstacles to educational advancement:

  • Overly aggressive Internet filters
  • Banning mobile phone technologies

No surprises there.

The key findings as quoted on the homepage of the study:

  • “67 percent of parents said they would purchase a mobile device for their child to use for schoolwork if the school allowed it, and 61 percent said they liked the idea of students using mobile devices to access online textbooks.
  • 53 percent of middle and high school students reported that the inability to use cell phones, smart phones or MP3 players was the largest obstacle when using technology in school. Additionally, 71 percent of high school students and 62 percent of middle school students said that the number one way schools could make it easier to use technology would be to allow greater access to the digital content and resources that Internet firewalls and school filters blocked.

  • Parents are increasingly supportive of online textbooks. Two-thirds of parents view online textbooks as a good investment to enhance student achievement compared to 21 percent in 2008. However, E-textbooks are still a relatively novel concept in the classroom. Slightly over one-third of high school students report they are currently using an online textbook or other online curriculum as part of their regular schoolwork.

  • Nearly 30 percent of high school students have experienced some type of online learning.”

So, let me get this straight:

We are facing some of the toughest budget cuts in US history and rather than be innovative and use what the kids already have in their pockets, we're rather continue to play prison guard and ban everything?

I've already made the case for cell phones in schools and am not going to rehash it here. We know that we have a lot of addictive behaviors relating to social uses of the cell phone but we also know that they pack more computer power in those palm sized handhelds than we had in computers around a decade a go.

The facts are that we can no longer afford to do this thing “our way.” Remember the calculator battles fought about 20 years a go – now they are required even on the SAT. Likely that those cell phones will be our calculators in another 10.

I love the video created by Joy a few years a go on the netGen project where she pictured what will happen to students in the future who don't bring cell phones to class!

Find more videos like this on Net Gen Ed Project

It is a lot truer than some may think.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Debbie Vaughan April 11, 2011 - 7:51 pm

I agree that schools need to loosen up the restrictions (Why would a page of recipes need to be restricted?) I think it is just easier for the administrators and tech people to just ban everything. Then they don’t have to worry if they missed something or if a student is going to accidentally see something they shouldn’t. With all the stuff out there that shouldn’t be, it is hard to catch it all. It doesn’t matter how much you ban, students are still going to push and try to get to sites they shouldn’t. As for cell phones, ipods, etc it is the same. It is much easier to just say no, than to come up with a list of rules for the students to follow about appropriate and acceptable use. With the budget cuts we have and the cuts coming, it won’t be long before schools will have to make these adjustments. I like your comparison to the calculator. I think cell phones will have the same result. Love the video.

John Woodring April 11, 2011 - 9:14 pm

I agree with your viewpoint and will go one better, not allowing student emails or at least help students obtaining an email. There are many great resources that I would love to have students use but because an email address is required to signup for them I have to find other alternatives. Sometimes those alternatives are just not that good or harder to teach. We had a student media project grind to a halt because the most effective ways to convert MP4 into AVI were sites that required email addresses. A district option was not going to happen.

I have started discussing mobile phones and use them with students in my Computer Tech classes. One skeptical teacher was won over by how my students followed the rules set down for phone use. She has started using phones now and had her students make the rules. This teacher is amazed at how well they are working out and the uses students come up with is astonishing (but should not be). I have proposed in my blog a foundation be setup to take working iOS and Android smartphones that are no longer used because they have been replaced with new, more advanced phones and donate them to schools. This would save these phones from polluting the environment and give schools a cost effective means of going to a more 1:1 solution as these devices can be placed in the hands of students.

Schools no longer have the money to spend on technology in this current economy and may never get it again. Educators need to be more creative in tapping into all technology resources available to them. However, to do this it will take some major out of the box thinking that will help save education as a whole.

Neil Stephenson April 11, 2011 - 9:31 pm

I’m going to get a bit snarky here.. but really? The two biggest obstacles around transforming education are internet filters and cell phones?

We have had a 100 years of unsuccessfully trying to implement deep change in teacher practice and all that is stopping us is internet filters and cell phones?

I’m sorry but often I find these types of overly simplistic solutions to the incredibly complex issue of meaning educational change to be counterproductive. For example – in Alberta where I’m from, we have spent over $1.5B on K-12 technology over the last 15 years with almost zero change in teacher practices.

I say this with the upmost respect for teachers – the only thing that will change teaching practices is changing teaching practices. We must reimagine and rethink what the whole thing is about – not play around with cell phones and internet filters.

coolcatteacher April 11, 2011 - 11:48 pm

Thanks for your feedback. I also agree it is inevitable. I always love how
my students have me play the “mean teacher. ” ;-)

Vicki A. Davis
Twitter: @coolcatteacher

coolcatteacher April 12, 2011 - 12:07 am

Well, the survey had an incredibly large sample size. Also, note that the study was about using EMERGING tools and of course cell phones and filters would be an obstacle.

Of course teaching practices are an issue but you have to give teachers some slack here – if they can’t use it – why waste their time? Did you look at the study? There were other things as well. I thought it was a good read and yes – I just simplified but these are two issues I think we’ll have to learn to live with.

coolcatteacher April 12, 2011 - 12:08 am

Right now email is a school supply at our school for 8th grade up – however, we’re going to issue google emails through our google apps for domain account to the students starting this fall.

David Summar April 12, 2011 - 1:04 am

We opened up our AUP this year to allow mobile devices, but from what I can tell, no professional development, resources, or curricular ideas followed. Some schools allowed them, some didn’t. And very few teachers allow them, and of those that do, many just let students listen to music while they do classwork. It’s a long way to go.

coolcatteacher April 12, 2011 - 1:17 am

Yes, we have to have practical uses – just unblocking doesn’t cut it if we
don’t have a REASON.

Vicki A. Davis
Twitter: @coolcatteacher

Michael West April 12, 2011 - 4:12 am

I couldn’t agree with you more! Digital/online learning is the key to making high-quality education accessible and affordable for more students. It’s inevitable that one day, children won’t even know what regular textbooks are. It’s a shame to see school administrators’ fear of change preventing progress and innovation from happening.

coolcatteacher April 12, 2011 - 10:58 am

I think we’re all afraid. I also think we can’t envision what the future LOOKS LIKE so it is hard to get there.

Brandon J April 14, 2011 - 1:36 pm

I’ve been working at a school where at one point students were recieving in school suspensions for having their phones or ipods out (repeat offenders). I agree that we need to ultimately life the ban on these things for the sake of education. So much can be one on these electronic devices that it seems almost crazy that they are still banned.

The issue I see is possible misuse by the students and how do you monitor it.

coolcatteacher April 14, 2011 - 2:02 pm

I think like we monitor anything. We let them have paper even though they
can throw spitballs, make paper airplanes, and write ugly notes. We deal
with it when it happens. We know if they are playing games. We expect them
to be on task in the classroom. Period.

Vicki A. Davis
Twitter: @coolcatteacher

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