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A Surprise Conversation

You never know when an interesting social media conversation will break out.

Last Sunday, our woodwind quintet, the Venturi Winds, performed a concert at the Wellington County Museum & Archives building. Following the program we decided to go out for a light dinner along with a few family members who attended the event.

Seated at the table and previewing menus, the unsuspecting conversation started. One person, who operates their own business, begins to tell the story of needing to terminate an employee for continually spending company time on their personal cell phone. They turn to me and ask “What you you do in the schools? Do you allow cell phones in the classroom?”

I provide some background on our digital citizenship program indicating that it is important to:

  • recognize that value of mobile devices to support certain aspects of curriculum delivery
  • teach appropriate, ethical and safe use for a particular situation
  • and teach self regulation

Many of our schools have designated some ‘cell phone safe’ zones where students may use their phones. Classroom use is generally at the discretion of the teacher. Everyone could see the value in our approach, and that providing some real world context to these experiences was of value.

The conversation deepens. “What about laptops? What about Facebook? (etc.)? Are these allowed in the classroom? These are distractions.”

I provide some additional information about our program and approach. True enough, these could be distractions, but mobile technology and social media tools provide:

  • ways to interact with the world in real time
  • access to information
  • collaboration opportunities
  • authentic audience opportunities and experiences to students

I went on to explain the use of blogs, wikis, ning, Google docs, Facebook etc. and how the use of these tools can support important curriculum goals such as non fiction writing (e.g. journals, poetry, peer review of projects …). The conversation went on to talk about the role of the teacher shifting from the ‘sage on the stage’ to the learning coach who facilitates inquiry and project based learning.

All in all, a great conversation that stretched out over most of the meal time.  The conversation did eventually drift to other topics. Finally  a question came up about time zones and daylight savings time.

My solution: “If you had a smart phone, you could look that up right now.” – and I did. What a great segue to the power of access to information via mobile devices. Our time together concluded with a good laugh from the group.

~ Mark