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EdTech Update




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The horse is out of the barn: cell phones

Not long ago signs similar to this were not uncommon in Minnesota schools:

But yesterday I noticed two very different signs related to cell phones in high schools in two different districts:


Can we safely conclude that the cell phone battle between educators and kids is over - and that the kids won? 

In 2009, I wrote a list of 20 technologies that many educators were trying to keep out of the schools:

These educational technology resources, annoyances, and conditions are here to stay despite some educators denial, resistance and fast grip on the status quo. The sooner educators, especially tech directors and administrators, accept that these things are a permanent part of the educational landscape, the sooner attention will be paid to using them positively and productively.

Cell phones were number one on my list of these "horses that were out of the barn."

This week I ran across a great article in Wired, "Demonized Smartohones Are Just Our Latest Technological Scapegoat" that reminded me that new technologies (including writing and the printing press) have always been met with dread warnings of the damage they will cause to civilization as we know it. 

Read any articles lately about how "technology addiction" is ruining the world? 

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Reader Comments (4)

Part of me is beginning to think that if a student is using their cell phone in class, do I need to step things up? Is my class at a point where a student would rather flip through memes than pay attention and learn?

I realize there will always be those students (or that student) who just are not / isn't involved - hopefully it's a one time thing.

January 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

HI Kenn,

I've always written that the truly "disruptive" aspect of technology in the classroom will be that it will force increasing relevance. If a kids can get to information or entertainment that seems important to them, they will, so it will be up to the teacher to convince learners that what is being taught is important. I am wondering if that is possible in some classes!


January 29, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I don't think it is a fair summary to say that new technologies "have always been met with dread warnings of the damage they will cause to civilization as we know it". I think it is more accurate to acknowledge that technology changes have involved losses as well as gains. Like anything big and complex, it simply isn't all good or all bad. Researchers like Nicholas Carr and Robert Putnam have documented this quite well.

To me, the wise reaction to (any) technology is to regard it as a tool, keeping one's purpose as a constant guide. What is the best tool to achieve any particular goal(s)? Being open to all possibilities (no tech, low tech, high tech, new tech, old tech) will allow for the best choice in achieving goals.

I hope teachers are not being asked to put educational goals in competition with the entertainment and dopamine shots available through smart phones. Aside from being super unfair to teachers, there is no evidence to show that that set-up leads to better educational outcomes.

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Kleckner

Hi Kathy,

Thanks for your comment providing a little perspective. Not all technologies, of course, have been met with concern by all peoples.

I have gone back and forth about whether technologies can be considered "neutral" - used equally well for good or bad purposes. Interesting question.

I don't think teachers have much choice but to compete with new technologies' pull​ in school. As educators, we've needed to up our relevance game for quite some time and perhaps this is the incentive we need to do that.

Again, I really appreciate the comment and the perspective,


February 10, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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