Why is an Ontario School Board Banning Mobile Learning Devices?

Posted: April 15, 2008 in cell_phone, digital culture, edushifts, ipod, iPod in Education, mobilelearning, rant, tools

Link: http://lfpress.ca/newsstand/News/Local/2008/04/15/5287346-sun.html

To those educators and students who work and learn at the London Catholic District School Board in London Ontario, I wish to offer you my condolences. It appears that relevant and modern education has died in your school district.  It appears that the reactionary forces within your school district over-powered the visionaries to the detriment of the 23,000 students that learn within your school board.

I wish to state the opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.  I also wish to begin by apologizing to those educator’s in the employ of London Catholic who disagree with their trustees’ decision.  I hope that by expressing my lowly opinion, I can help bring awareness to your cause.

Is the board of trustees banning electronic devices because of the “behaviour problems that they are causing”.  I would argue that it is the behaviour that is the problem not the device and it is the behaviour that needs to be dealt with.  Why don’t we ban pencils because a student can use it to physically injure another students? Why don’t we ban scissors because students sometimes use it to stab other students?  In these cases, we deal with the behaviour.  With digital technology, we ban the devices.

I am quite shocked to hear that the board of trustees of the London Catholic District School Board would essentially ban electronic devices in schools.  Obviously, the trustees of this school board have not investigated the pedigological benefits of mobile technologies such as cell phones, iPods, PDA and other electronic devices.  We live in a society where universities such as ACU in the US is distributing an iPod Touch to students .  In Japan, Cyber University has an online class with a version built for cell phones .  Many other universities world wide are making lectures available to students through iTunesU to allow students to download lectures to their iPods.  MyArtSpace is a service that allows museums to give students cell phones during their field trip to record their experiences while at the museum. The board that I work for, Toronto Catholic District School Board, is experimenting with the use of iPods to help ELL students learn English.  Yes, we have given students iPods and are encouraging them to bring it to school and are encouraging teachers to incorporate them in their lessons.

Teachers can use iPods as an assistive technology, to differentiate instruction and to address multiple intelligences by: allowing students to listen to audiobooks while read digital text, creating interactive tests, allowing students to access the Internet (iPod Touch only) and publish/collaborate online, create and present slideshows, poetry study through music analysis, access educational video, reference databases and even learn a music instrument! Teachers and students can use cell phones to record interviews, access the internet, photograph or video record data from a field trip and then transfer data to others using bluetooth, listening to and creating podcasts, organize their lives using calendar, etc.

This is a classic case of generational disconnect.  How are teachers supposed to prepare their students for the 21st century when the tools that are used in the 21st century workplace and in 21st century society are being kept out of school?

As an education system, it is our duty to provide students with access to the tools they need to access the information that they require.  That is why we have libraries and that is why we have books.  However, libraries and books cannot keep up with the exponential rate of change that is happening in our society.  Textbooks are out of date by the time they enter students’ hands.  Students are coming to school with the tools they need to access the information they need to make their education relevant.  Yet the London Catholic board has chosen outdated information and obsolete teaching methods over current information and dynamic, relevant teaching strategies.

The industrial society of the 19th and 20th centuries is long gone.  Why are we still preparing students for that world?

  1. Gareth Long says:

    I totally agree with these hard hitting but honest comments. Our students now expect to use technology all the time – it is a core part of their lives.

    Banning handheld devices in schools is, in effect inhibiting educational opportunities. Students forget books, pens and pencils… when did you last hear of a student forgetting their cell phone or laptop – they are almost an additional limb to their body…lets us them to improve students engagement and attainment! This decision is really quite bizarre!


  2. Michael McIlveen says:

    At best, it appears to be a stop-gap measure to buy time until a realistic plan is in place that will incorporate technology.

    Or, is this the finger in the dyke?

    Or how about another image: Students voting with their feet! That’s the one that worries me the most.

  3. itouch 32gb says:

    Great post. thanks

  4. Doug Fitzpatrick says:

    Most of the blog seems to be talking about implementing mLearning devices at the university level. What about at the K-3, 4-6, and middle school grades where the students may not have the maturity level to stay on task.

    Your thoughts….

    • Thanks for your comment. This blog is about using mobile devices in the K-12 classroom and all the ideas presented here have this education level in mind. Therefore, in a sense, the ideas presented in this blog are my thoughts.

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