When I was in school we weren’t allowed to use calculators. It wasn’t until we took physics and calculus that we were allowed to use them – and that was in high school. Calculators are a prevalent today. Every mobile device has one and grade school kids use them whether they’re supposed to or not. There is an ongoing debate over whether or not calculators should be allowed in the classroom but change seems inevitable as more educators are finding ways to use them constructively as part of the learning process.
Calculators have an important role in supporting and advancing elementary mathematics learning. The benefits of their selective and strategic use are twofold. Calculators can promote the higher-order thinking and reasoning needed for problem solving in our information- and technology-based society, and they can also increase students’ understanding of and fluency with arithmetic operations, algorithms, and numerical relationships. – National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
This line of thinking should extend to mobile devices as well. Banning mobile devices from the classroom is fruitless. It’s better to teach children how to make smart choices and be responsible. Teaching them these skills now will not only help them today but will stay with them as they’re faced with similar choices later.
The Common Core State Standards call for students to develop digital media and technology skills. One way to help them reach that goal: incorporate gadgets they’re already familiar with — cell phones, tablets, and smartphones — into their learning environment. – “Mobile Devices for Learning: What you need to know”, Edutopia
Teaching this responsibility isn’t a job for teachers. They can help reinforce the learning but it’s the job of parents to teach their children how to make these choices and to take responsibility for their actions. We ask a lot of our teachers already. It can be argued some of them don’t do enough but most every teacher I’ve met since my daughter entered school is trying to do their best with what they have.
And what is it they have? Children that range from totally disinterested in school to children that seek more challenging and interesting learning. Add to this tighter budgets and a systems that measure performance based on test scores.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan says performance pay for teachers is his department’s “highest priority.” The Obama Administration created the $4.3 billion Race to the Top fund to encourage states to implement performance pay systems and other changes. – National Education Association
But test scores are not an accurate measure of how much a student knows or how well equipped they are for life. And banning mobile devices isn’t an answer to a technology that has been assimilated into our children’s lives and into our culture.
It is the belief of this group that the best way to both protect and educate students is to provide them an environment in which they can learn, experiment, be exposed to role models (including educators and other students), and receive feedback about their behavior. It should be no surprise that a group of educators would recommend this approach. What is surprising is the number of school districts that implement policies geared towards avoidance rather than education. – “Responsible technology use in public schools”, Massachusetts Department of Education (MS Doc)
Whether we like it or not, mobile devices are here and embedded. Avoidance will not work. Teaching children how to use them responsibly will.