Texting 101: Craik students using cellphones in classroom
A Saskatchewan high school has stopped fighting technology and has embraced cellphone use in the classroom.
Craik High School principal Gord Taylor and grades 8-9 teacher Carla Dolman have started a pilot project incorporating cellphone use into the learning environment. For the last six weeks the 19 students in the class have been allowed to bring their phones into Dolman’s classroom and use them as part of their day-to-day activities.
“These are tools and there’s no use burying our heads in the sand and not taking advantage of them,” said Taylor. “We’re preparing these kids for the world and people in business are carrying cells as tools for communication.”
|Craik High School is embracing new technology – like texting from cell phones – incorporating it into the everyday work load.|
The idea began with a group of frustrated teachers on a Friday in early January. They were discussing how cellphones were disturbing class, which sparked the idea of using the cells as classroom aids. Taylor then approached Dolman to get the idea rolling.
From that point, the students were involved in the program development, said Dolman.
“Some of the kids were saying, ‘Are you sure you want to do this Mrs. Dolman? Isn’t this just going to be one other thing you’ll have to control with us?’ ” she said. “But I’m happy to report, I’ve only had positive results.”
The class has used the phones as part of a recent book study, which involved students sending responses to their teacher’s questions in video and audio formats.
Students have also started using the calendar and alarm features as agenda alternatives, which Dolman said has increased productivity drastically. Taylor said there have been mixed reviews from other teachers and parents. Critics say it may just represent another distraction in class, a further breakdown of proper English or a tech-dependency nightmare.
“I think the way people learn has changed since a generation ago,” said Taylor. “People were saying similar things about calculators when I got out of university.”
And the learning doesn’t just involve punching numbers on a keypad. Students have also done a cost analysis of the different cellphone plans available in the province as a related project.
But aside from the proven positives, there has been criticism concerning the one-third of the students who don’t own cells.
The solution? The students work in groups, and the group leaders manage the cell aspect of assignments. Students without phones also have the option of texting group leaders via an Internet website.
“Without a cellphone, it’s kind of a downer,” said Grade 8 student Jordan Stewart. “But it’s still really fun because we get to work with the people that have them.”
Stewart said his parents are still wary of the project idea.
“But they haven’t seen it live yet,” he adds. “Once they see it, they’ll see how cool it is.”
The kids without phones aren’t the only ones web texting. Taylor said he uses it because he hasn’t quite mastered the art of “T9-ing,” which is a short cut for texters that picks up words without having to type them in their entirety.
“I’m a T9 failure,” said Taylor, who prefers to use his laptop.
Even Dolman, the teacher, has become a student.
“I just learned how to T9 over the weekend,” she said. “I had to. It was becoming ridiculous. All the kids were making fun of me because I take so long to write a message.”
Dean Shareski, a curriculum and technology consultant for the Prairie South school division, said the cellphone could very well have a future in the classroom.
“Literacy has expanded beyond reading and writing,” said Shareski. “Now kids need to know about audio and video.”
The school plans to run the pilot until the summer, which will follow with an evaluation of its success.
“Whether it works or not can’t really be determined yet,” said Taylor. “Right now, we’re concentrating on making sure the kids are enjoying learning in new ways and improving their education.”
Author: Danielle Mario, The StarPhoenix, 15th February 2008