11 March, 2012

Wanted: Firsthand Knowledge

 I have a bit of a bad conscious this morning. One of the teachers I worked with over the last years asked me to become a part of a parent, teacher, and student work group. The topic of the group is “use of private media in the school”. Initially, I said yes to participate in the group. Now I’ve decided not to get involved.

It is not because the topic isn’t worthy of thoughtful consideration. It is not that it isn’t one dear to my heart. Also there is an immediate need to figure out how to deal with earnest infringements of current policies. My reticence has to do with the dynamics of the situation in general.

There has been a boycott in using mobile phones during school hours for a few years now. The students are allowed to use other forms of media (e.g. iPods). Now with the occurrence of smart phones there is no distinction between mobile phones and other media. The teachers want further restrictions into media use. The students want leniency. 

It is an age-old challenge. How can a younger generation be heard?  So, on the surface of the matter, it would seem all we need is constructive debate, collective aims, and mutual respect for the different parties’ positions.
If I have learned anything in the last ten years of working with new media (can we still call it new media if it is twenty years old?), talk will resolve little. The students will resist being shoved into one box. The adults will site actual misconduct to promote the necessity for more restrictions. Everyone is avoiding the one elephant in the porcelain shop. That is, how to find an acceptable solution when those in a position of authority, teachers and parents, know next to nothing firsthand about what they are talking about.
It is as if Mennonite teachers and parents were asked to be leaders in teaching their students and children about modern farming practices.

It just will not happen. It is not that their skills and experiences in teaching that are obsolete. Nor is it that traditional education is wrong. Admittedly, there are many uncertainties in adopting modern methods and technologies. I am not disputing any of these things.

My only dispute is that I think the misuse of media by children and teens on the school grounds or in their homes is, in part, a result of our inability to act upon our responsibility to lead them in it proper use in classroom learning and social situations. If parents and teachers don’t know through their own personal experiences how media is best practiced, then it is questionable whether they are in a position to qualitatively offer assistance in restricting its misuse.


  1. Well said!!! It is our responsibility as adults to do so.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. I do think that mobile phones can be an incredible learning tool and it's sad that policymakers are unwilling to learn more about how to leverage and monitor them in the classroom. The kids are missing out on some great opportunities.