After visiting a local middle school this morning and interviewing some students there about their technology use, it has become even more evident to me how important technology is in the daily lives of K-12 students. Number one on the list was their cell phone, and students easily listed half a dozen uses. This was followed by their use of the Internet, television, and games. Students also noted that their access to technology was much more limited at school due to numerous rules and restrictions, despite the fact that there were rules related to usage at home as well.
Interestingly, when asked what technology they would like to have access to in school, students mentioned cell phones. However, when asked further, they couldn't really come up with a reasonable justification as to why they should be allowed to have cell phones in school. I think the question kind of caught them off-guard, as they tend to be told what they cannot have or do in school.
The use of cellphones has become a hot topic of debate in New York City, where the ban on cell phones has been enforced more strongly as of late. While school officials and the mayor oppose student access to cell phones in school because they are a nuisance, cause cheating, increase gang activity, or lead to the taking of inappropriate pictures in bathrooms and locker rooms, students say they need the phones to stay in touch with their families, especially in case of an emergency. The latter is a strong argument in a city that was severely hit by the September 11 attacks. In between these two groups seems to be a relatively larger group of parents, teachers, and ….?, who say they'll allow cell phones in schools as long as teachers can set guidelines for use (e.g. leave them off and out of sight during class; see e.g. this unscientific Edutopia Poll).
I'd be interested in hearing what you think about the issue of cell phones in schools. As much of a proponent as I am of giving K-12 students access to technology, I haven't really been convinced about the utility of cell phones in schools for LEARNING, and there is a variety of issues that would need to be dealt with as well (see e.g. those provided by the National School Safety and Security Services). On the other hand, I think cell phones are great tools for learning outside of the classroom (for both content delivery and creation), as the Frequency 1550 project in Amsterdam, for example, shows. So what side are you on, and why?