Apr 10, 2009


My BEDA 10 blog today is a hybrid. A bvlog. My first vlog actually. I took all frames of me out to increase your viewing pleasure.

Part of my research is centered around asking students and teachers what they would change about high school.

Will the answers follow a pattern? Will answers intersect on some issue of practice? Will they connect in meaningful ways? Or, will teacher and student needs and wants run an infinite, generational parallel?

Today my blog is a segment of an interview with Kaitlin, a 10th grader at a medium to large public high school. When asked what she would change about high school, her first answer pretty much sums up what many teens are telling me.

Cell phones. In the school where I teach, and in Kaitlin's school (which are not the same), teachers are finding it very difficult to enforce the "no cell phone" rule. Actually, within the last 5 years, the prevalence of cell phones in the hands of students has made a once very "serious" offense of being caught with a phone, become more of a verbal warning nuisance for teachers and students. Some school are changing the way they deal with cell phones by officially allowing students to use phones in the hallways during passing periods and in class during down time. There is a lot of unofficial cell phone usage going on in hallways and classrooms right now because teachers and administrators become wary of spending too much time on writing disciplinary forms, arguing with parents, and fighting practices that are now accepted cultural norms.

Cell phones with 3G networks are also throwing a wrench in legal expectation. The federal and state government required that school filter Internet sites available to students at school. Before web surfing cell phones became common place, the arguments surrounding filters centered on poor quality software and 1st Amendment rights. Commercially sold filtering software is often seen by teachers and teens as being too restrictive. In my school, we have seen a librarian and teacher complaints at having software make access and content decisions on their behalf. As we work through issues of the amount of access to restrict the main problem is changing. The issue of "how much to control" is becoming lost in the fact that students are bringing their own networks with them from the outside. Schools can't censor student cell surfing habits because schools can't enforce the usage of cell phones, period, without taking time away from teaching and learning. And you know what? The kids know this too.

I think the issue of "control" is probably the most difficult hurdle schools will need to breech. What things do educators want to control about student behavior? How much control do educators need? How much control can parents or the government expect out of High School educators? How much control is even possible?

A wise administrator once said to me, "You should never make rules that you can't enforce." Large high school leaders may think they can control cell phone usage at schools, but they are kidding themselves. If students purchase their own phones and plans, or if parents do and give the student texting and 3G capabilities, is it worth the fight? Can we use the phones for learning purposes instead wasting time on forms, detentions, and suspensions?

I asked my husband how he would have answered the same question (what would you change in High School) way back when? Both of us had a hard time deciding what the answer would have been. One reason may be that it has been (OMG) around 20 years since we were in high school.

The first three things that popped into our mind were:
1) Pizza every day in the cafeteria,
2) Being able to leave school for lunch,
3) Bringing back the smoking room that was available to students a few years before we came to high school.

It might be that our brain cells are deteriorating with age, but mainly I think the reason we struggle to connect to our teenage memories is because the culture has changed so rapidly since the latter part of the 80's.

There is a saying that "the more things change, the more they stay the same." I wonder if this age old wisdom is becoming obsolete. Yes, student do still want more pizza on the menu and many of them would like to have the time and ability to leave during lunch, but these wants are not a priority. Teen awareness of smoking hazards and the current legal age of purchasing cigarettes has pushed the once coveted smoking room off teenage radars completely.

Yes, teens still want to spend more time with friends, and less with parents. However, the way teens communicate, share, play, and learn is different from teens one, two, and three generations ago. It is surely a question for social scientists to wrap their heads around.

So, if you are a teen, what would you change about school? If you are not a teen, how would you have answered this question when you were in school?

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