Not Yeah But; Try What If

In the ten years I have been teaching I have heard a lot of yeah buts. It is striking to me that teachers, not all, certainly, but too many for my comfort, are so resistant to change. We teachers should be the model for life-long learning and adaptation. Too many of us are stuck in the mud of convention and same as it ever wasness.

Yeah but we don’t have the resources for that.

We need to find a way. Our students are bringing networked computers with them to school everyday. Cellphones. What if wecould use them to poll our students, have them send text messages to our free Google Voice account, or use Twitter’s text messaging capabilities. What if we used the electronics students already owned in classes to help them learn?

Yeah but we can’t have students using cell phones in class.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I have seen an administrator use a cell phone during a meeting (lots). I could get some nice school supplies. Heck, I’ve even been speaking to an administrator who pulled out their phone and looked at it right while I was talking to them about actual school business. I have also seen school district officials using their cell phones during board meetings and, yes, graduation ceremonies. So, given that the vast majority of the adults (including the teachers) in the school and district are using a cell phone on a daily, hourly, even “minutely” basis, you want me to turn around and tell students that they can’t use their cell phones during class?

What if we taught students when it was appropriate to use their phones? What if we allowed them to text their answers to questions for an instantaneous formative assessment? What if we allowed students to use text messages as long as they were getting their work done? What if we treated text messaging as just another form of verbal communication instead of acting like it was one of the most dangerous acts a teenager can perform?

Yeah, but students need to practice face to face interactions. Social networking is destroying our ability to, well, socialize.

First, seriously? You think kids need to practice talking face to face? Isn’t that what we do, like, all the time? I mean, honestly, saying that social networking and texting is going to take the place of face to face interaction is a bit like the arguments that people made against adding sound and color to movies. Today, it sounds ridiculous. Just like this will to people twenty years from now. It’s not. Really.

A study by the Pew Research Institute in 2009 found that social networking and use of mobile phones DID NOT increase isolation. To the contrary, it appears that people using Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging are better informed and more active in a greater, wider network with stronger ties to people than people who do not.

What if we taught students to use social networking properly? What if we taught them to post responsibly? What if we helped them see how social networking could be used to help them solve problems and gather information instead of wringing our hands and burying our heads.

The bottom line is that the majority of “yeah, buts” are deeply rooted in unfounded fears and resistance to change because it takes work. It’s time to let go of that. What if we all embraced change and moved forward together to make the world a better place? What if we all read articles, and wrote articles, about better teaching practices? What if?

*Update* I just found this article that talks about this same subject but with some good solutions. It’s addressed, I think, more toward administrators but is still worth thinking about.

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