In an assembly on the first day of school, our principal made an earth-shaking announcement regarding a student-conduct policy change. Rather than going through the annual “It’s OK to have your phones at school, but they need to be turned off and left in your locker” speech, he went in a completely different direction. He actually encouraged students to bring devices like iPhones, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, and laptops to use in class! The buzz among the students was electric. Heads began tilting as ideas were whispered back-and-forth in an endless sea of smirks and giggles. The students in the auditorium shot each other looks translated as “Finally!” or “I’m going to Facebook all day!”; the teachers shot each other looks that translated as “Uh-oh, Pandora’s box has been opened!” or “This too shall pass.”
Our principal made a few more announcements about not having pizza on Wednesdays anymore and a new policy regarding where seniors could park, and then we all went back to class. The bell rang and with my students sitting in their nice and neat rows, I handed out a pencil-and-paper worksheet, and we had English class just like I did when I was a student 15 years ago.
About two weeks later, I had just finished giving directions for a thematic essay my students were assigned to write in class. A hand shot up and a student asked me if she could type her essay at home that night and just spend the class time reading. That question I had anticipated and handled like a seasoned teacher, but the next four words changed everything:
Can I text it?
“What?! You would rather text me an essay than write or type it?”
“Yes, I can text faster than I can type or write.”
“You really can text faster than you can type?”
Reluctantly (and a little skeptical), I said go for it because, after all, our new school policy allowed phones to be used in class.
About thirty minutes later, a properly formatted, well-written, grammatically correct 5-paragraph essay popped into my inbox with these 4 words on the bottom:
Sent from my iPhone
Everything I had thought about using technology in the classroom changed that day.