Ban It, Block It, Embrace It, Ignore It… Technology, Students and The(fire)Wall

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone…

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Did you ever pass or receive a little crinkled  (or folded into a triangle if you were cool like me!) piece of loose leaf paper asking someone to be your partner at the afterschool roller skate party in the gym (Yes Thornell Road Elemenrary.  Mike Snyder and Jon Lu, I am talking to you!  They were soooo dreamy!)

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Or better yet in Middle School the note likely asked your crush to “go out” with you?  Looking back I admire Bradley Bennet’s willingness to express his feelings!  I wonder what became of him, and hope that he is married to a lovely woman who frequently receives notes and letters of admiration.  I will have to look him up on FB!

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Today there are less sweaty palms, and secret hand-offs of paper behind the backs of teachers because these questions are almost always asked in a text or online.

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With the start of each school year comes all of the “New” issues that we (adults) think that we have a handle on, until we don’t!

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In my stint in education there has been Hoodie Gate, a very heated discussion about not allowing children to wear hooded sweatshirts. This resulted in small laminated posters being distributed to be displayed in each trailer/classroom.  At the top was a picture of a hoodie with a big red circle and line illustrating the ban.  The poster explicitly explained hoodie attributes, and what a hoodie is not.

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Even without the hoods on the head, some people felt very strongly that hoodies must be banned from all school buildings.  In these discussions I listen intently to reasons why, which usually center around safety.

There is more to this discussion with palatable undertones dealing with race and class based on what “Hoodies represent.”  Frequently the discussion turns to hair, self esteem and a child’s cut or style being a point of embarrassment.  Next comes talk about hats, jewelry, skirt/shorts length and that just the tip of the iceberg!

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I cringe at the words “Proper” and “Appropriate.”  Someone mentions ripped jeans, tucked in shirts, belts as a necessity…then comes the tank top crusade.  The shoulders of any tank top must be three fingers in width.  Why three I wonder, why not two or four, and my fingers are very slim and witch-like.

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Do I need to calculate the average teachers finger width and multiply that by three in order to know if I am appropriate?  …and then…comes… the…BRA.  I will save that for another day…but feel a certain way about grown folks talking about girl’s boobs. (Shame on US, not them.)

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Yes Love…You do look good!

There was also the entertaining “Chinchilla for Sale” mass email that was sent to all teachers in Charleston County.  Apparently someone was trying to sell some chinchillas using our district wide email.  Note to new teachers, don’t do that, and if you get one, do not reply all!  A teacher replied all reminding them not to use their email for this purpose in a way that some people thought was inappropriate.  It had something to do with already having enough furry animals to deal with at school, and on it went.  People were really upset.

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That was  one of my first years teaching, and I had no idea what on earth was going on.  Some of the funny people at school started creating what would now be Memes by printing out pictures of Chinchillas and making witty word bubbles and such.

…And the most common point of contention in my experience has been discussions regarding use of technology, specifically students devices/cell phones.

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This discussion often leads to differing opinions and an inability to come to a real consensus.  In recent years the faculty has been given a stern warning about “friending” students on social media. I think it is genius that “Friends” are what we call each other on FB. (more on that later.)  In schools we are generally talking about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and others that pop up and grab the interests of our students.

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Is Social media social? There certainly is interaction, but to me it seems very inorganic, which is one of the things I love about it!  I can share what I want, and find information quickly and efficiently.

When I was in Middle School we took keyboarding (covering our hands with cardboard), and in our history classes we would often had to search old history books and primary documents.  I would even get to go in the a special dimly lit section of the school library to analyze microfiche.  I am unsure if it is a Charleston County thing, but we call school libraries “Media Centers” now.

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Do you remember when teachers would use projectors with reels of film, and they always smelled like burning hair?Today there is no need for those things.  I stream clips from movies or documentaries onto my smart board.

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It may be nostalgia, but there is something to be said about those days, and there is something to be said about the smell of a really good old book.  That smell means that book has infiltrated, confused and delighted many minds, been a guest in many homes and been held in many hands.  I’m not sure if my students have ever felt that feeling while inhaling the smell of a good old book, or heard that sound of the end of the reel slapping the projector when the film was over.  Do you remember the warmth of the paper when your teacher had just run her copies?  Or getting a letter put in your backpack to bring home to your parents?

Occasionally I write letters home to parents, but generally if I need to speak to one, I can call them on their cell phone.

Did you ever rush home from school to delete a message from your teacher (or worse yet… the Principal) that was left on your home phone/answering machine? No more! Now we leave voice mails on cell phones, shoot a text, or use an app.

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All of these these are both good and bad at the same time.

There’s something special about youth, and figuring ways to throw off the plans adults make and the restrictions we set.  Now there are new tricks and most of these involve social media.

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I think it may be children’s jobs to give us something to worry over and re-establish new boundaries, and I appreciate that about them. I appreciate that eagerness to communicate, and their unbridled need to be accepted, loved and understood by their peers. I think that need is inside of us as humans of any age, though adolescence is a different beast.

It is fascinating which words are used on social networking sites. The words friend, followers, and groups.

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Do you Agree?

In a world where we are feeling more disconnected and often dissatisfied we somehow have more “friends” than ever.

My friends provide fun, comfort, understanding and validation.  We are social and were made to interact with others. There’s just something inside of us that yearns for connection which can be easily (and perhaps falsely) attained by use of Social Media.

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You LIKE me…You Really Like Me…or at least the parts I choose to share with you my friend.

Today we want instant everything, including friends.

I am undecided where I lean on use of technology in education but know that change is the only way to progress.

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I wonder if change too quickly can lead to the opposite.  Can too much change cause regression? If so, to what point, and could that actually be a progression?  Have we (or will we) go too far?

I wonder if it is too much too fast, and if growth and progress can possibly be too rapid.

Sometimes I think “Who am I” to determine whether or not someone is ready for growth?  How can I decide if or not someone should have access to anything let alone something so valuable?  That brings up all sorts of questions about access and equality.  I wonder about contrasting school technology usage policies between affluent and title one schools. (Beyond the obvious financial hurdles, but actual beliefs about the value of technology and the access it provides.)

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How can I (with a good conscience) deny a child the ability to be part of something that provides access to  immeasurable knowledge?

So all social media interaction between teachers and students is completely banned.   As adults professionals, we understand that.  I don’t think we (teachers) want to be friends with our students, it is sort of like being demoted. We’ve already been 12, thank Goodness!

For the children I am pretty sure an all out technology personal devise ban would be a flop.  Burning books never seems to work, and children generally cannot be limited unless they agree to those limitations, especially about something that can be hidden so easily.  I know, it’s a little John Locke, but it’s that whole consent of the governed thing.

Ignoring this progress also seems silly.  Just because I don’t acknowledge something doesn’t mean it does not exist.

At this moment I would argue that we need as adults and community members must teach our children how to use social media because it’s value outweighs it’s detriment.

What do you think, where do you stand on this issue?

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Sending Love to you and yours from sunny Summerville, SC

EJ

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