One of the goals this year of our district tech advisory committee is to formulate guidelines for student-owned technologies. At yesterday’s meeting, I thought we’d start with an “easy” set of rules to create – those for the use of iPods and MP3 players. What possible reason could a school have for banning these things?
Well, I got a list (and earful) from the teachers and librarians on the committee…
- They might get stolen.
- They make kids who can’t afford them feel bad.
- Kids might listen to them instead of the teacher.
- Who knows what kinds of lyrics that the kids might be listening to!
- Kids might listen to test answers (There’s a stretch.)
Oh, sure, kids might use them to help them study, replay their French vocab lesson, or listen to audio books or an NPR broadcast – but really, what’s the chance of that?
The underlying argument was because of possible misuse, they should be banned - period.
(One of our students on the advisory board had the courage to say that he felt individual teachers should have the right to say whether iPods should be allowed in their classrooms, and added that he concentrates better in study hall and the library when his music drowns out other distractions.)
I gotta say that this “potential misuse” as a reason for banning technologies drives me nuts. If we applied this rationale for not allowing a technology to an old, familiar technology, we’d certainly have to ban pencils from school because:
- A student might poke out the eye of another student.
- A student might write a dirty word with one. Or even write a whole harassing note and pass it to another student.
- One student might have a mechanical pencil making those with wooden ones feel bad.
- The pencil might get stolen or lost.
- Kids might be doodling instead of working on their assignments.
Oh, sure, kids might actually use them to take notes or compose a paper - but really, what’s the chance of that?
I cringe whenever I hear a district or school “banning” cell phones, blogging software, e-mail, flash drives, chat, game sites, etc. Each of these technologies has positive educational uses. Each of these technologies is a big part of many kids’ lives outside of school. And yes, each of these technologies has the “potential” for misuse.
One of my biggest worries has always been that by denying access to technologies that students find useful and meaningful within school, we make school less and less relevant to our Net Genners. When are we going to learn to use the kids devices for their benefit rather than invent excuses to outlaw them?
Is there a sensible policy for iPod use?
2010 note: The same tired arguments about "safety" are being applied to Facebook, YouTube, cellphones, and G3 enabled personal computing devices in schools today. Get over it.