Monday, November 8, 2010

Smart Phones For Teachers, or "Hello? This is the 21st century calling."

I'm considered very tech savvy by most who know me, but you'd be shocked by my ancient cell phone. It's over five years old. (That's about 95 in cell phone years.) I can text from it if I have 20 minutes to spare and I can even take a picture, if you consider grayish blobs pictures. I will also admit I'm a bit cheap. My current Verizon plan covers both my husband and myself for under $50.  Switching even just me to a smart phone would more than double that. (Have I mentioned I'm a teacher with a mortgage and two kids?)

Still, I've been seriously considering upgrading myself to a smart phone for a while. But many of the motivators for the upgrade are coming from the educational applications I want to use it for, such as being able to instantly post pictures and video to a blog or get e-mail and texts from students where ever I am. A few days ago it occurred to me that what I probably really need to do is write a grant proposal.

I think giving students access to me beyond the classroom is a big part of it. During the hours right after school I am blacked out to them as I attend meetings, run errands and pick up my own kids. Often I sit down at my computer after eight and find e-mails from students asking for help that were sent at 4:30. With a 3G connection I could have taken a moment and responded sooner.

I know there are charters where teachers are given cell phones and required to be accessible to students. I love that idea. I'm willing. Sign me up.  The photo and video capabilities of the phone make it useful in class, and the 3G access makes it useful beyond the classroom.

I don't know for sure yet what it would cost or how it would work. In my dream world someone would walk into my room, hand me an iphone or droid phone and say, "We want you to pilot a smart phone for teachers program. Here's a phone. Here's the number. Use it and report on what happens for you and your students. If it works well and helps students we will give them to more teachers."  Six months later I'd be giving workshops for teachers about how they can integrate their phones into the technology they already have going.

In business the knowledge workers get issued Blackberries to increase their productivity.  Seems to me teachers are definitely knowledge workers.

Fifteen years ago, when I first started teaching, most classrooms in my district didn't even have regular land line phones. It was a big deal when the district put a phone in every classroom. It will probably be another fifteen years before they figure out that they should put a smart phone in the hands of every teacher.