Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cell Phones in Class? Really? Yes!

Today I received an email from online-phd-degree.net. It was a notice of nomination for The Most Fascinating Blog Award in the education category. Specifically, the Cell Phone in the Classroom post in 2009.

Online PhD Programs

I'm not so sure it is fascinating but it sure has gotten some buzz. I have had several emails from undergraduate and graduate students who request information about what I do and how my school handles it. It seems there is some fascination with what I've done.

I believe we should embrace the technology. Some of us will still be fighting the cell phone when it's replacement comes along! And we all know that will come soon. How soon? I'm not sure but, it will come.

I was a classroom technology teacher for 16 years and then moved to instructional technology director for 12 years. I have been back in the classroom for 3 years now. I can tell you that I have been practicing what I preached. It works. However, it is not without problems.

I strongly believe that if a district were to implement cell phone use, starting in elementary school, many problems would not exist. Hear me out. If we start in 2nd or 3rd grade and ask parents to equip their children with cell phones you know most of them would! We would need to train the students, teachers and yes, even parents to use them productively. I think if we give students enough reason not to abuse them they wouldn't. We need to give them those reasons.

Now for the people who see this as a have and have not issue, we need to be creative on how we solve this. If we always did nothing because a few can not afford it we would never do anything. I have never been one to cater to the lowest common denominator.

Each year my students find several new ways to use their cell phones in school. They are always impressed with what is available for school use. They may all have them but that does not mean they fully utilize it. We need to do better!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cell Phones

I taught my unit in Cell Phone Use for School again last semester. You can see what we did at our class wiki. This was the first time all students had cell phones. Unfortunately not all students had "smart phones. Some students with smart phones weren't allowed to use the Internet on their phones. One student even had a hard time convincing his parents that he needed it for a school assignment.
I tried a new service where students could create their own mobile webpage. It is called Winksite. Each student could choose from several features to have on their mobile page. They thought it was pretty helpful and gave them a central location for their school needs.

As usual I find students to be really good at what they want to do with their technology. However they only know what they truely want. This leaves them pretty much clueless about the abilities and functions of a majority of the cell phone's abililities. We all learned a lot from this activity.

Yes, I did get permission and was encouraged to do more. We do have a policy banning their use, but the principal has the right to allow us to use them in class. So far so good!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hello! Again!

It's been a long long time since I felt the need to post here. I'm surprised that blogspot has not shut it down. So what was the reason I left? What has brought me back? Read on and I'll share my journey and the reasons why I'm where I am in my life. It's not some sappy story just the truth about education and it's spiral out of control. It finally came home.

I used to be the IT Director in our small rural school district. In fact I was the IT Director when I last posted. Now I'm back in the classroom teaching full time. The change was due to budget cuts. That was the district's stance. I had worked for 12 years in that position. I planned and implemented the installation of the first cnetwork, laptop for teachers, wireless, and a teacher in-service program. There were several other initiatives as well. We were podasting, using video, ipods, sub notebooks, skype, distance learning, some cell phone use, and much more. My goal was to be the best in our area of the state. I felt we were fast approaching that goal when, it all came to a screeching halt. My job was eliminated, they let my network manager go and replaced us with several workers from BOCES. In NYS that's a branch of education that provides services to school at a reduced rate funded by the state. The one piece they did not replace was the leadership I provided for staff development and implementation of instructional technology.

I am now in my second year of teaching middle school technology. This was some what of a culture shock since I have spent the previous 28 years teaching high school and adults. I have to say though that I really enjoy it. It has taken me this long to recover from the shock of losing a program that was highly successful and just about at the top of the game. I have focused my energies on creating a technology program at our middle school. So far I think it's going well. I get to share first hand with the students all that I have learned over the past few years with instructional technology. My middle school kids are creating videos, podcasting, using voicethread, wordl, wikis, and many of the web 2.0 tools out their.

Maybe it's time to share those stories with you. I can tell you that today I read a comment about my use of cell phones in the classroom. It was this comment that inspired me to write again. So for what it's worth, here I am and I'm ready to post.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cell Phones in Class

I have created an activity for my computer applications class at the high school level. I will have the students work in pairs. They will be researching 3 different applications for cell phone use in schools or for school work. Once they find an application they like they will enter a description on the class wiki. They will then create an online tutorial using Camstudio and WebCamMax. Tutorials will be placed on YouTube and the school website page. Students will be using Diigo to keep track of their research and for note taking.

We start Monday and I will allow three weeks for this project to start. It should be interesting to see what different applications they find and want to use. We will start with Liz Kolb's website Cellphones in learning.

Yes, I asked for permission to have students use their cellphone! I'll keep you posted!

Please let me know if you have any favorite cell phone apps that the kids can research.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Think I Get It! Now, What to do About It!

I have been looking through my blogs and there is a common thread running through many of them. People in my PLN are upset with Obama's pick for Secretary of Education, but that's not what motivated me to jump in here. It is the discussion around that topic. The discussion of change.

We all know that change is very difficult for some and somewhat difficult for most. In the best of times when everyone appears to be moving forward change still comes slowly. This has always seemed to be true of education.

I think I might have stumbled upon the reason why this is so. It seems that the harder some of us try to move forward the more the system pushes us backwards. Most people are not aware of this and mistake the change backwards as real progress.

Let me explain this phenomenon as I see it. You see I have been working very hard to get teachers around my area to see that students have changed and that teachers must adapt to their electronic world. It's a connected world out there and our students understand that, at least they understand it on their turf and terms. So what have we done about this. We've tried to cut them off from their world and are trying desperately to keep them in ours.

I'll bet that almost every educator wants their students to become life long learners. We even know how to do that. Students who are self motivated do much better than most. It's really hard to keep someone uneducated when they really want to learn. However, we are doing our best to do just that.

I have always been told that tracking is a dirty word in education, yet we have created the biggest track of all by trying to convince all students that they must go to college. Take a look at our college drop out rates and you'll see that it just hasn't worked, but what k-12 educator feels responsible for that. Hey we graduated them and sent them on to college didn't we? We did our job! Really?

I believe our strength as a nation is our people and our creative genius. Some have called it good old Yankee Ingenuity. We are letting that slowly slip away as we teach to the standards and the tests. Why should our children be excited about school when they are practicing for the tests, reviewing for the tests, taking the tests, and then debriefing the test results, only to gear up for the next tests. I would bet that if we could some how create a test on test taking, our nation would be number one in the world. Hey, maybe then we would satisfy the people who think that student achievement is best measured with standardized tests. We could then just teach our students about test taking and get on with real education. Giving our students reasons to want to learn about everything again!

You see I think we are going backwards and the reason I am so frustrated sometimes is it's not just helping to steer people in the right direction but also getting them out of reverse first. Here's what Ira Socol said that put this into perspective for me,

"But in schools, we go backwards. We even declare it, saying, we're going "back"wards "to basics." When we let a few new things trickle in, we control them so fiercely that they change almost nothing. Rather than tearing down classroom walls our kids now spend more time in school and even take fewer field trips. Rather than alternative evaluations we now have standardized tests for all ages. Rather than project-based learning we now have Core Curriculum. Rather than social justice we have "zero tolerance." And rather than the freedom of mobiles in the classroom we have the coercive control of clickers. Rather than the freedom of the Internet we have filters and blocks. Rather than the interaction of messaging and blogs and Twitter and Skype we have rules against these technologies. Rather than pushing past Wikipedia and print-based knowledge design, we don't even allow Wikipedia in so that we can discover its limits. Rather than computers allowing for individualization, we "lock them down." We've stopped dreaming - unless we are dreaming of the Eisenhower Administration and pretending it was all things I am quite certain it was not. And since we've stopped dreaming, we've stopped progressing. We're so afraid these days. I never understood how Europeans just 'gave up on progress' when the Roman Empire fell, but now I do. We have done the same. Retreated to our dark, isolated classrooms, hiding from the world, hoping it all goes away."

This is what we are up against. I see that now. What to do about it is another thing altogether.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Students Blogging

My media class is about to begin their first blogging activity. This is not the first time I have done this with my media class. However this is the first time I am reaching out to the blogosphere for feed back. Please visit my student's pages and feel free to make comments. I know that they would be thrilled.

If you have a class that would like to participate in the discussion please do so. You can contact me at .

Here is the activity. I ask my students to give me their opinions to questions relating to the media. I conduct this activity over 5 or more weeks. Students are to formulate their opinions through research on the web. They must cite their sources in their post. They can use any form of source they wish. This could be text, pictures, audio, or video.

I usually will ask different questions based upon their responses. The conversation can go in just about any direction. It really depends upon their interests. Of course I keep it all media related.

I have found that I get more thought and more writing out of the students. I used to give this assignment as a research paper. Boy has this changed the outcome of what the students learn.

I hope we get some participation from many students and teachers. If you want to join in, or if you can't, please share our activity with a colleague.

The blog can be found at http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=68130

Friday, November 28, 2008

Student Podcasts!

I have been reflecting lately on my digital destination due to this year's NYSCATE theme of "Discovering Your Digital Destination." I've been thinking about how much my personal learning has evolved and how much my teaching has changed. I've realized I owe it all to podcasting. Yes, podcasting.

I have met some fantastic people through the many podcasts I have produced. My PLN has grown in ways that were impossible only a few short years ago.

We were one of the first to use podcasting in eduaction and have been spreading the word since our first podcast nearly 3 tears ago. We have created a CD that outlined how to use podcasting in the classroom. We no longer have that available.

I have begun to write a book about student podcasts. I was inspired by David Warlick to do this. I do not consider myself a write so it should be interesting. I am going to try to self publish it online. It was through this self reflection and seeing where my journey has gone that gives me the confidence to try my hand at writing this book.

I will begin the process of asking my network for help with this endeavor. So, if you could tell me how you have used podcasting in your classroom or school I would really appreciate it. You can tell me stories of your experiences or even a colleague. I would be very interested in the information.

You can comment here or twitter me at mdionne. Here is a list of podcasts I am involved in.

The TechPodZone
Room 531
Hall Pass

Thanks so much for being part of my PLN.