For this cell phone project interview, I contacted various people and did not hear back from anyone. As of last night, I decided to post my assignment on Facebook, and to my surprise, a few of my "education" friends got back to me right away. I chuckled and thought to myself, "Ah, the speed and wonders of social networking." :)
I decided to conduct a conversation with one of my friends, Christina, who actually took this class in the past for her Master's Degree. Since then, she has stepped out and tried using cell phones in her classroom...it gave me some hope:) We started talking via Facebook, and then I just decided to email her my questions and then later call her to discuss her answers once she got back to me.
Christina teaches at Hempfield High School, and she is one of the technology leaders in her building. To begin our conversation, I wanted to make sure I covered all of the areas that we needed as well as a few other questions that I had. As of now, I am not one that supports the use of cell phones in education based on the fact that I teach 6th grade, but I am finding that the more I talk to people about it, and the more great ideas I hear about it, the better I begin to feel.
Here are the questions that I asked Christina, along with her responses...
1.What types of cell phone projects do you use in your classroom? She mentioned that she uses something called the "Poll Everywhere" system which is a question and answer forum. She also said that she used something called "Rained Out" which provides classroom updates. She mentioned that she has used "Rained Out" to help deliver cancellations to her team since she coaches. I coach as well so I thought this would be a great thing to use when sending messages to my team since most of the girls have their phones attached to their hip.
2. What made you first decide to venture into this area? Christina responded by saying, "I’m a technology leader in our school and all of the leaders have monthly meetings. 'Poll Everywhere' was presented to us by our technology coach. She frequently provides us with new tools and websites to use in the classroom. I thought this sounded like fun so I decided to give it a try. I heard about Rained Out at a technology conference and decided to give it a try."
3. Does your school have a policy or procedure on what teachers need to do if they want to start using a new technology in their classroom? Christina's response was, "Honestly, there is no specific policy in place. We have a lot of freedom to incorporate whatever we want, as long as we feel that it is beneficial to the students' learning. If there is anything that we find that we may be unsure of, we have technology coaches that we can ask to see if it is appropriate to use."
*I could relate to this situation because our district does not a problem with us trying new technologies...in fact, they want us to try new things that will engage the students, and they are more than willing to help us when we make those attempts.
4. Did you ask for permission first? I wasn't surprised with Christina's answer for this question (she said no) since the things she is using in her classrooms with cell phones was presented to her at a technology conference that she attended. Most teachers take those things shown to us and use them as often as possible knowing that they are already approved and safe.
5. What is/was the feedback from your students? Christina said, "Many of the students LOVED it! They thought it was so cool that they could take out their cell phones in class which is normally forbidden. 'Poll Everywhere' is very easy to use as well, which is nice because you are not running around like crazy answering tons of questions. Students also enjoy the classroom reminders that are sent via 'Rained Out.'"
6. Did you have to involve the parents of your students at all, and if so, what is/was their typical feedback? In this case, Christina said she did not involve the parents of her students. She mentioned that she felt that this was acceptable to use without permission since there was not any personal information being shared. The only thing she wanted to check into before doing the project was what students had texting plans. Most of her high school students knew the answer to this, but she said if someone did not have one, then she would encourage them to talk to their parents or she would then call their parents.
*I could see this as being an issue in my room since I teach 6th grade, as well as the fact that our policy does not permit cell phones. Our policy would need to be changed in order for me to use this type of technology. I feel as though most of my kids have phones, which also have texting, but I would probably first send home a letter describing what I was planning to do as well as talk to parents about the texting. The last thing I would want to do is make their bill go higher!
7. What do you do if not all students have cell phones? Based on the fact that Christina teaches high school, she said she typically reminds them at least 2-3 days prior to the activity about making sure they bring their cell phone to class. If they do not bring in a cell phone, she then pairs them up with one another. They are allowed to interact with one another, discuss what they think the answer is to the question, and then text it in.
8. What challenges did you face? Christina mentioned that "Poll Everywhere" is so easy to use so she really has not had many problems with this site. The only challenge she faced was not having all students bring in a cell phone, which is expected since high school students have a tendency to forget, or they may not own a phone. She said there are always ways around it though.
9. Do you have any advice you have for fellow teachers who want to do this...meaning using the two sites she used? Christina answered this question by saying, "Don’t be afraid! Take some time to learn the site, set up questions, and you’re practically good to go! It makes for a very fun and exciting class period!"
*I want to thank Christina for taking the time to answer my distress call on Facebook, and for taking the time to answer my questions. I felt that we had a great conversation and I was able to learn a lot about the simple things that you can do with cell phones in your classroom. I still have my opinions, but after talking to her, I felt more at ease and felt a little more confident in knowing that you at least have to give it a try to see how it works. I am curious to see what would come from me asking if I could try this with 6th graders, with the understanding that I would need to contact parents first. Christina and I discussed the questions that I mentioned above as well as a few other variations based on the different grade levels that we teach.
*I definitely would like to try to use the "Rained Out" site for coaching since it would alleviate trying to contact all the girls in case practice is canceled or changed, but I am still brainstorming ideas for the cell phones in the classroom. Like I mentioned before, I'm still hesitant about using cell phones, but talking to Christina definitely made me feel a little more at ease:)