Thinking Outside the Ban

By George Engel
Cross Posted at Learning with Mobile Technology
Editor’s note: I’m thrilled that my keynote at #TSETC in part inspired this insightful “Thinking Outside the Ban” post by George Engel who I had the pleasure of meeting and attending one of on using cell phones in the classroom. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this post from an educator who exemplifies the idea of “Thinking Outside the Ban.”

I attended the First Annual Tri-State Technology Conference this weekend and heard Lisa Nielsen’s (writer of the Innovative Educator blog) keynote titled “Thinking outside the ban. Well, that got me thinking outside the ban…

Although her focus was on various bans on technology in public education, social networking, for example, I tend to think of the ban of cell phones in the majority of school districts country wide. While I was presenting on the use of mobile technology for student learning, I was asked about using cell phones in schools with an absolute prohibition against using them in the classroom.

I am fortunate enough to live in a district that had banned cell phones until last year when they agreed to allow a pilot program in one of my classes, but many districts are not so forward thinking as Clarkstown Central Schools. Now, they have even opened a conversation into using Twitter as a learning tool. (YES!)

When I began to think about districts with a prohibition against cell phones in the classroom, I began to think about how to get around the ban, without getting the teacher or students in trouble.
The beauty of using cell phones in education is that they are anytime, anywhere learning tools. Educators in districts with restrictive bans need to “think outside the ban” by thinking outside the school. Most of the activities that I have outlined throughout this blog and my workshops can be done outside of the classroom.

Consider or for a moment. Who says these must be only used in the classroom? Why not embed the screens in a blog or wiki and have students respond to questions on them while at home and then discuss the content of the polls the next day?

Why create projects that can be done with mobile technology that must be done in school? We should be using the devices to their fullest potential, outside of the classroom.
If educators really wish to utilize the near ubiquitous mobile device they need to begin thinking about it at its greatest potential and truly use it as a MOBILE device.

One of my greatest desires is to teach students how to be informal learners, because it is in informal learning that students become lifelong learners. Having students complete work “outside the ban” leads them along the informal path and gives them the tools they need to learn on their own.
Being outside the ban is rewarding for both teachers and students. We all are able to grow and learn when do go beyond the borders placed on us by tradition and fear.
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