Source: Panic Button http://www.flickr.com/photos/trancemist/361935363/
A story from this morning’s paper, in response to a recently publicised assault on a teacher by a student recorded on a mobile phone camera.
…”State School Teachers Union president Anne Gisborne said measures were needed to ensure an urgent response when teachers were in danger. “In circumstances such as that school, there might need to be phones in each classroom, that makes it easier to contact, there might be an emergency bell,” she said.
Education Minister Liz Constable said all options would be looked at. “But again you have to be in the place where that panic button is, don’t you, when the incident occurs,” she said.”
‘Hard to get to’? ‘Need to be in the place where the panic button is’? ‘Might need phones?’ (Another) ‘bell?’
I had to read the passage twice to check and thought: How about that device called mobile phone? You know, the most commonly used, instant, ubiqutous communication device, banned from most classrooms these days.
But mobiles are not a panacea. They are simply extension of human power to do wonderful and stupid things alike.
On the same day, I saw a former colleague bullied on YouTube (I won’t give you the link because I do not want to give this or similar clips any oxygen). It is cruel, ignorant bullying of a teacher out in plain view, recorded on a mobile. Good teacher or bad teacher – it doesn’t matter. It is a sad and disturbing case, bringing out what REALLY sometimes goes on in our classrooms. A person got hurt. Period.
Some would argue at least it’s in public and the perpetrators can be brought to account, some would be horrified at the prospect of having something like that aired publicly, to the pleasure or horror of Anonymous. Then again, I hear many pundits already saying “it’s those damn mobiles, ban the lot in class, they have nothing to do with learning”.
They do and they don’t. Why?
To me, three best things a teacher, parent, or a school can model and encourage are: a) resilient love of learning, b) sustained attention and immersion with a meaningful learning task, and c) ethical discernment when things are appropriate or not.
Apart from some amazing individuals I’ve worked with or heard of, your regular downtown school sucks at these: a) is quashed by grades, b) goes out the window when the bell goes, and c) is usually talked about AT students or staff, not WITH them, because everyone needs to “mind their own role (in the hierarchy) and do their job”.
When mobiles (mostly all sophisticated net devices these days anyway) help us find things, communicate, connect, understand and expand in a matter of seconds like never before (or perhaps help the safety of staff and students…) – use them (a). When mobiles become weapons of mass distraction – turn them off (b). But talk with (not AT) the kids honestly and challenge them when it comes to ethical use (c).
Kids know a lot more about the use of mobiles, appropriate and inappropriate, already than Education Minister or Union President (not hard that..) but they either have little say in things or they are, yes, plain immature. Now there’s a chance to give them a chance at real responsibility to mature.
Outside of school walls there are times we ignore mobiles – we discern, make choices. I’ve sometimes joked with kids in class saying: “Would you respond to a call, txt, tweet or friend writing on your Facebook wall when you are about to kiss the guy or girl you have been wanting to kiss for months? Why not?”. There are times we multitask and we need to and so on… There are times for things and there are reasons for them.
So, mobiles (much as violence against teachers) are not a technology issue or at least something technology will help us instantly solve. They are an opportunity to discuss ethical issues.
By knee-jerk banning mobiles, we may be eroding the very things we could do the kids and ourselves as educators and parents the biggest favour with – examining our own and each other’s ideas and change them if necessary, not just imposing the values and making sure that the ones carrying the biggest stick win, no matter how stupid they actually are.
Hard? Yes. Worth it? More than a lot of other stuff taught.