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June 28, 2007


Ben Fulton

A lot of people seem to think that banning something is the answer to every problem.


Ben -- Thanks for the comment. BTW, I spent many years living in Bloomington as an undergrad -- great town!

As you said, many chose banning something rather than re-thinking the problem. On one level, it makes sense that we push aside the things that are new or seem unnecessary to the core work we do, esp. if they seem to pose a problem. On the other hand, choices like this do not remove the problem -- cheating -- and in turn threaten to make schools less and less relevant between the lives of kids in the real world and their academic world.

I find it hard -- at best -- to believe that one can't monitor their students in a testing situation closely enough to prevent MP3 use. I also find it curious why we have honor codes or violations for cheating if we don't rely on them to mean something, rather than banning something that has a limited use in that area as a reaction. Finally, and most importantly, perhaps we should spend more time thinking about the assessments we give our students, and wonder how we can create unique experiences that are not prone to rote memorization and copying.

Again, thanks for the comment. Cheers, Christian

Neil Winton

Hi Christian,
The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) who oversee the Scottish exam system have insisted on a ban on mobile phones and iPod/mp3 players in the end of year formal examinations for a couple of years now. I don't think anyone has a problem with that... I just hope they don't start trying to ban them in classes when we should be looking at ways of making them a normal part of the day-to-day business of the classroom.

I've already started getting my pupils to use their mobile phones for recording when their homework is due, and have helped some of my colleagues in the language department get podcasts sorted out for their classes to download. Heaven help us if we start blocking the tools that allow us to speak to the pupils in terms they will understand... it's bad enough trying to deal with the farce that is filtering in schools without having to confiscate mobile technology as well...

I agree with Ben completely that the old guard seem to think that banning is the answer. I just keep thinking of King Canute trying to stop the tide coming in...

Anyway, I'm away back to watch Scoble in line at Palo Alto... we might not have the iPhone yet, but there's nothing like a bit of vicarious living to keep you excited and dreaming. (And if the iPhone does even half of what it appears to be able to do, we should be making a strong case to get them from our authorities... as if!)


Neil -- Appreciate your point re: the use of cell phones and MP3s (et al) during formal testing situations. Like you, I can't imagine anyone has a problem with this.

As for their use in regular classes in a way that support 'learning' and class projects -- as you detailed one strategy in particular -- I am left with the conclusion that we're merely throwing the baby out with the bathwater if we ban them outright. And we're doing it reactively without considering what is possible with these remarkable tools that our kids have.

As for the iPhone, patience my friend. Hopefully you'll manage to pick a post-beta version by the time they arrive on your side of 'the pond'. Patience!


Eric Langhorst

I contacted my local news station after they aired the "cheating with i-Pods" story a couple of weeks ago and they came out and did a story on how we use MP3 files to study for the tests. Here is the link to a shorter text only version of the story : http://www.thekansascitychannel.com/education/13469839/detail.html I will be posting the audio of the feature on my blog soon. Thanks.

Eric Langhorst
Speaking of History Podcast

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