Smartphones – Let’s experiment and see

My good friend and fellow IT Babbler Tony wrote a piece called Mobile Phone Shutdown about how his school is banning students from using their smart phones during certain hours of the day. It’s good (please give it a read). In the post he identifies some problems that his school is dealing with and outlines a solution to ban phones for students and the hope of the outcome. It is sound. It is a levelheaded response to a problem and, let’s not forget, this is an experiment. It may yield results that are unexpected maybe even unwanted, but no matter what happens, Tony and the people he works with will observe, analyze and make another rational decision later on if needed. It’s not just a plan, it is a process.

There is a lot of talk out there about how terrible these devices are to children. There is an article in the Wall Street Journal that talks about parents trying to grapple when to buy their child a smartphone. Then there is the article in the New York Times that calls out Apple to make a “Less Addictive iPhone”. There is a lot of emotion and reaction in these articles and these topics. You often hear these words when discussing smartphones and students:
– Addiction
– Distraction
– Diminished social skills
– Harmful for developing minds
– Disconnected
– Leads to unhappiness and/or anxiety
– Sleep deprivation

Then there are other articles such as this one from Wired that talks about how smartphones are being demonized and may not be that bad. Then there is this article from Doug Johnson’s The Blue Skunk Blog (great blog and well worth your time if you’re an educator). He says that we might as well learn how to leverage and manage smartphones in schools. Both Wired and Doug Johnson’s blog are written by very well respected professionals like the authors of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Here is the bottom line. There is no missing puzzle piece that will solve this issue for all schools. We have to remember that the iPhone is only ten years old and I am not exactly sure when a majority of students started coming to schools with smartphones but I would take a stab and say 5–6 years ago. So the long term report isn’t in about how bad/awful/great/awesome these devices are to students.

I’m not for or against smartphones in schools. I think that should be a decision made based on a school by school basis and not by a single person.

What I am for are experiments. Trying out solutions, analyzing and discussing the results with the community and moving forward and using a process.

I am not for rash and knee jerk decisions. These are often not so thought out and when results come back that are unexpected, then it is too easy to call the fix it a failure and abandon a policy for another one.

What do you think?

Educational iPhone App of the Week – Discovr Apps


Every week I go and search for an app that I think can realistically benefit a teacher, student or both in their never ending educational journey. Yet, with over 500,000 apps on the app store it’s tough to find one that is worth your time. This is where Discovr Apps comes in. You simply type in an app or subject and shows you an ever expanding web of apps that are similar. Tap on another app and the web expands. Included in the web is information that tells you what rating it has and if it’s free. Double tap on an app and it will give you the detailed description, screen shots and the ability to head directly to the app store to purchase or download it. The app retails for $1.99 but it makes searching for apps easier and more enjoyable. While it’s not perfect it does the job great of finding similar apps to sort through. Check out the screen shots below and you can find it on iTunes here.

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QR Codes and education

What do I think? Scan the QR code below and find out!


If you don’t have a QR reader or know what one is, then just read on past the break to get my take on QR codes and education. I think it will be worth your while. As always, be sure to leave a comment. Omar and I love those things!

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