"The need to know the capital of Florida died when my phone learned the answer."
-High School Student Student 2.0Last summer, I attend the Constructivist Consortium Celebration in Atlanta with my pals from FableVision. While at the celebration, I heard someone say something about cell phones that made me think...a lot. I don't have an exact quote, but I think it was Gary Stager who suggested giving kids something to do with phones, instead of banning them.
"Deer caught in the headlights" is how I refer to the facial expressions of my high school chorus as they are singing. This year, I was determined to make that different. I did several different things with the intention of getting kids to be more involved with the text of the song. I invented a game (which I will describe in another post) and I had the students interview someone about the songs they loved and why they were significant.
With the permission of my principal, I stunned the kids in chorus one day by asking them to take out their cell phones and call or text someone outside the school and ask them about their favorite song. A few students looked at me as if I were tricking them into giving me their cell phone, which is the punishment for having a phone in plain sight. Two or three students were unhappy because they had left their phones in their locker and wouldn't be able to participate. Kid who didn't have a cell phone were able to interview someone in the room.
What happened was truly amazing. Students in my tiny little Iowa town were talking to friends and family in all parts of the state and country. Many were within the local area, but some were as far as Oregon and California. Instantly, I had taken my lesson to a more global reach.
Some of the teachers in my school are a little uptight...I expected some backlash. However, I explicitly told kids that this was a one-time deal and they were not to try it or suggest it in another class. Then, I sent out a message to the whole faculty and described the experience. Interestingly, the only comments I received from teachers were questions on the effectiveness and exclamations of "how cool" the assignment was.
Sadly, my cell phone usage didn't catch on with other teacher risk-takers. I do think it had some impact on how the kids approached songs. Most importantly, I proved a concept that in this 'flat world' we need to allow kids to reach out of their own tiny corner of the world and tap into the vast knowledge that is available.