Tag Archives: smart phone

Tweens & The Cell Phone Conversation

Back to School shopping has started. Here in Florida, we kick off “tax free weekend,” which allows parents and students to purchase back to school items and pay no sales tax. Items included on that list: clothing, school supplies, computers, tablets, and smart phones! For many parents of tweens, the start of the school year also marks the start of the “cell phone conversation.” Do I get my child a smart phone? If so, what kind of smart phone? What limits do I put on them? Is it yet age appropriate for my child to have a phone?

So, how do you start the cell phone conversation with your child? Or, if you are a teacher or school administrator, how do you advise parents? There are a few ways to get the conversation going and things for you to consider.

Is a smart phone Age-Appropriate?

I feel comfortable telling parents that a child should not have their own device if they are younger than double digits. While I have seen 8 and 9 years olds playing on devices, those devices should ultimately belong to an adult. After the age of 10, however, it becomes a little more challenging. It would be easiest if I could tell parents that X age is the right age for their child to get a smartphone. However, the reality is that every child is different.

Your child is unique in their maturity and tolerance for responsibility. A smartphone is a big responsibility. A few comparable questions: Do I feel comfortable leaving my child home alone for a few hours? Does my child take care of their toys (e.g. clothing, other electronics, etc)? Would I allow my child to supervise other children? These questions tell you a few things: Can my child safely navigate without adult supervision? Can they care for an expensive piece of electronics? Can my child effectively and safely manage and engage with others without adult supervision?

Have a Conversation About the Responsibility of a Smartphone

I know, I know… this sounds so cheesy. But the reality is that, like driving a car, getting a smartphone is a big responsibility. They are entering a new world of freedom and flexibility. One in which they can, likely will (and developmentally should) make some mistakes and missteps. If you want to know more about what kids really “get up to” 13893168079_a584a41d83_bonline, check out danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (this link gives you access to a free PDF version of the book). danah’s (yes, she spells it that way) book gives you a realistic look at how children engage with one another online. Here are some questions to discuss with your child:

  • What will you do if you see something that makes you uncomfortable online?
  • What will you do if you think that a friend or a classmate is being mean to you or someone else?
  • How will you react if someone makes you angry online?
  • What will you do if you think you have made a mistake in how you have acted online?
  • What will you do if your phone breaks or gets dropped in water?

This should be realistic conversations. Try not to use scare tactic examples. Pull things from real life:

“One time, Aunt Edna and I got into an argument because she responded to my selfie by saying ‘You look soooo fat!’ It turned out that she was being sarcastic and meant it as a compliment; I had recently lost weight. I thought that she was being mean. We didn’t speak for two weeks because neither of tried to clear up the communication. What could we have done better?”

Set Boundaries for Your Child & Yourself

Boundaries are important in all facets of life, including electronics. Sit down and have a conversation with your child about rules and boundaries for their new device – both for you and for them. Make a physical list that you post in your home. Think of this as an evolving process. Some of these may change as the child gets older or if you or your child feel it needs to shift. Additionally, consider consequences for violating boundaries (loss of a privilege?) Parents, keep in mind that modeling is especially important! A few items for you to consider:

  • Will there be a “no smartphone” time? For example family meals? Homework/reading time?  Family events? Bedtime?
  • Will parents be monitoring smartphone use?
  • When (during the day) is it acceptable to text? For example, what about during the school day? Parents, keep in mind that if you text a child during class-time, you may be enabling behavior you don’t want!
  • What is acceptable to share online? When should you get permission to post or share something?
  • Where will the phone be kept at night? It is often recommended to remove smartphones from children’s bedrooms at night to avoid temptation. Charge them in a parent’s room or a neutral place.

Keep Yourself Informed

Have regular conversations with your child about what they do online. Reinforce the idea that you are a trusted adult and they can come to you when they run into problems. To me, that is the most vital part of tween cell phone ownership – knowing that their parents can and will help them if they find themselves in uncomfortable situations or have made a poor decision. Some great resources for parents:

If you have some thoughts or contributions, please share them in the notes below!



Google Arts & Culture for Android & iOS

google-arts-cultureI have long been a fan of Google Arts & Culture (previously Google Art Project). It allows individuals to explore museums, exhibits, and historical topics around the world. For example, you can tour the works of Vincent Vangogh, explore Ancient Kyoto, or wander around the Lincoln Home (to name a few).

Previously, the robust features of Google Arts & Culture was reserved for computers. Now, however, you can download the free pap for your iOS or Android device. This is a great way to let students explore the different tools and features available via Google Arts & Culture on your classroom tablets or even on student smartphones!

Plagiarism vs. Collaboration on Education’s Digital Frontier

This has been reblogged from my post at PLP Voices.


by Jennifer Carey

It’s an open secret in the education community. As we go about integrating technology into our schools, we are increasing the risk and potential for plagiarism in our tradition-minded classrooms.

In fact, a recent PEW research study found that while educators find technology beneficial in teaching writing skills, they feel it has also led to a direct increase in rates of plagiarism and infringement of intellectual property rights. In my recent article about using Google Drive as a system for students to write and submit work, many of the readers who commented expressed their concern that students would use such a tool to “peek” at their peers’ work and perhaps use it for “inspiration.”

These concerns lead us to an interesting discussion about collaboration and plagiarism in the classroom. It is true that tools such as bloggingsocial mediaGoogle Drive, and DropBox(among others) allow for faster and easier communication and collaboration – skill sets that many educators and business leaders have identified as valuable and important today. But when does collaboration cross the line into plagiarism, out in the digital frontier of education?

In the balance, does plagiarism make these tools more problematic than they are useful?

An interesting dilemma

We want students to do “group work,” to collaborate, and to discuss. However, we have very specific realms in which we want this to happen: the group assignment, the in-class discussion, studying for exams, etc. At the same time, many of us want to put up barriers and halt any collaboration at other times (during assessments, for example). When collaboration takes place during assessment, we deem it plagiarism or cheating, and technology is often identified as the instrument that tempts students into such behavior.

This leads me to a broader and more provocative question. Should we ever stymie collaboration among our students? We live in a collaborative world. It is rare in a job, let alone life, that individuals work in complete isolation – with lack of assistance or contributions from anyone else. Perhaps as educators, it’s time to reassess how we want students to work.

Instead of fighting a losing battle (as my grandmother would put it – “You can’t nail jello to a wall!”) by trying to ban any type of interaction with students online, what if we incorporated collaboration into our lessons and our assessments?

Transforming “cheating” into collaboration?

social-media-bookWhile I certainly do not want my students copying and pasting somebody else’s content, at the same time I think that it’s engaging and fruitful for them to be able to discuss assignments and enlist assistance from their peers across the board. For example, my students are currently working on a research essay. They have individual topics that they have chosen. I’m perfectly fine with them sharing their work with their peers and looking for feedback, input, or guidance. This is not cheating, rather it is collaboration. It should be open and above board – transparent – but this is exactly how they should grow as learners.

Using tools such as Google Drive, students can more easily collaborate across distances and with conflicting schedules. Better yet for me as their teacher, I can actually view their collaborative efforts using the “revision history” function of Google Drive (Go to File → See Revision History). This allows me to see who contributed what and when. This way, I can track not only quality, but quantity. (See my post on Google Docs and research.)

We have all heard students complain that a member of the group has “contributed nothing.” Now there is a method to verify and follow up this complaint. While student A may have contributed fewer comments or changes, those contributions may have been especially meaningful and balanced. Likewise, if student B has never logged into the system, the teacher knows this well before the project is complete and can follow up and discuss with that student the necessities of participation.

But what about the test?

Outside of project work or written papers, we still have the formal quiz and test assessment. Many of us are required to do testing in our classes (in the form of mid-terms or finals). This does not mean that the anti-collaboration walls must go up.

Now, we ask students not to discuss test questions or we guard them in the fear that those questions will leak out via cellphone snapshots — or that a student might Google the answer! Perhaps it’s time to reassess how we write our exams. If you can Google the answer, how good is the question?

Do we want students to simply memorize and regurgitate information? Is this the type of learning that we value in the 21st century? Or do we want them to think, assess, reason, and verbalize (vocally or in written form) their processes and ideas? I would argue that the latter is better not only in assessment but in overall skills.

My students may produce an entirely wrong answer, but if how they got there was through logic, reasonable assumption, educated guessing (not just plain old “guessing”) – and they were effective in communicating that process – then there is evidence of learning that I can take into account. I’m not left to figure out what they DID know from a T/F or multi-choice “wrong” answer.

Perhaps instead of focusing our concerns on technology as a wonderful aid to plagiarizers, we should focus on its ability to foster creativity and collaboration, and then ask ourselves (we are the clever adults here) how we can incorporate those elements into our formalized assessments.

There will always be corner-cutters

Unfortunately, yes, there will always be those students who want to cut corners, find the easy way, and cheat to get out of having to do the hard work. (See my post on combating plagiarism.) But a significant majority of students are inherently inquisitive: they want to learn and do better by engaging and thinking, not memorizing and fact checking. It’s up to us to appeal to that inquisitiveness.

The reality is that rote memorization is largely becoming obsolete and not a reflection of the needs we have in our citizens or our workforce. Instead, we need to get busy fostering creative and developmental skills that will allow them to achieve through their skills as collaborators and creative makers and shapers of information and ideas.

This is the power of the new technologies that are populating the digital frontier of education.

Mobile Phones in the Classroom

This is reblogged from EDIM. I was interviewed by Mr. Hocking about my experience using cell phones in the classroom. This article is based off of my previous post, “Teaching with SmartPhones.”

Jennifer Carey is the Director of Educational Technology and High School History Teacher atRansom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, Florida.  She graciously granted me a 30+ minute interview via Skype on the topic of cell phones in the classroom.  To further engage myself with this week’s theme of cell phones in the classroom, I conducted the interview and typed up this blog post on my cell phone (#bonuspoints @teach42).  I did, however, record it in GarageBand on my MacBook Pro so that I could go back if I missed anything.  I’ll have to look into a good mobile phone recording app.

The reason I chose Ms. Carey for the interview is because of this article I found when I was searching for people to interview.  She seemed to be quite the advocate for using any technology in the classroom.  As a matter of fact, she attended the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston, MA this past week.

The first question I asked was, “What prompted you to try using cell phones in the classroom?”  She responded by stating… Mobiles in the Classroom.

Update – Conference Talk: From Enemy to Asset, Cell Phones in the Classroom

Today, I gave my talk “Cell Phones in the Classroom: From Enemy to Asset,” (see my previous post on preparing for it) for the Independent Curriculum Group at the beautiful campus of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, TX. Here was the published summary of my talk:

From Enemy to Asset: Cell Phones in the Classroom
Cell phones have replaced note-passing as the biggest distraction in the classroom. Schools have tried to attack the problem with blanket bans or restrictive policies. But what if instead of viewing cell phones as the enemy, we use them as teaching tools? Most students have more computing power in their pocket than was used by NASA to send men to the moon. This session will explore innovative classroom uses for cell phones.

I was quite nervous about this talk – my colleagues were entirely strangers, I was in a new environment, talking about a ‘controversial’ topic and at the last minute I found out two horrifying facts: that the session would be 75 minutes (I had anticipated 50-60) and that I would be presenting first! The night before, I spent a lot of time tossing and turning as well as frantically changing my content.

The day began and my room ended up being packed – we were dragging in extra chairs and for a time, it was standing room only. Seems like this was a topic that hit home for a lot of faculty – after all, cell phones are pervasive.

Turns out, I had a great audience. They were incredibly talkative and engaging. They asked pertinent questions, brought up legitimate concerns, and shared constructively. In fact, my problem wasn’t that I couldn’t fill up the time, I just didn’t have enough!

We spent most of our time playing with Poll Everywhere. I’ve posted previously about my very positive experiences with the software in previous blog posts. They liked its ease of use, the broad application, and moderator features. In fact, we spent probably 70% of the time talking about this particular piece. Here’s an example of one of our ‘back-channel’ chats

We next moved on to DropBox (if any conference attendees are reading this, remember this is the link that will get you 250mb of bonus space!) – I was surprised by the number of teachers that were unfamiliar with this program, but they all became excited quite quickly at its cross-platform capabilities, file storage and transfer, as well as means of distributing materials to students who now seem loathe to check their own emails (my students often ask me to text them when I email something important). I highlight DropBox in my post about using your Smart Phone to go paperless (or less paper-y).

By the time I finished both of these products, we had only a few minutes left. I showed them a few examples of other products, namely Scanner Applications (like Genius Scan Pro) that students can use in their process of research (and help organize with DropBox or Evernote).

A few of the conference goers stayed after ‘the bell’ to ask me about some of the creative suites (that I used for digital storytelling projects, which you can read about here). I also put out a stack of business cards that were collected up – hopefully to contact me in the future, but possibly to ensure they got the spelling right on their complaints.

I didn’t get a chance to distribute my handout (not sure what happened to my copies). But you can download a copy of it here: Austin Presentation (it includes all of the software I went over, or planned to go over, in the talk).