Last updated: March 11. 2014 2:36PM - 776 Views
By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist

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Now the kids want devices? Back in my day when we went to school we had to use coal and a piece of bark to do all of our work and we liked it, dad gummit. What’s next, selfie class?

There are some people out there who think that just because they didn’t get to enjoy certain advantages, that future generations shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy them either. There are some people who think they preformed better because of the inferior technology, not in spite of it. The way I did it is the true way, and the way we should do things for all eternity.

Now I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with a piece of paper and a freshly sharpened Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil, but we should never let jealousy delay progress.

As recently reported by The Sedalia Democrat’s Nicole Cooke, Sedalia School District 200 is a few months into their “Bring Your Own Device” program at Smith-Cotton Junior High School and Smith-Cotton High School. Students are encouraged to bring their mobile devices and use them to engage the lesson on a modern, technological level.

For years teachers have been fighting the war on cell phones. I had teachers at Smith-Cotton who would make sure to remind us that they have a special drawer in their desk for our contraband devices and they would just love to confiscate that thing that has been diverting our attention. You can have it back at the end of the day, or the end of the week, or whenever your guardian shows up personally to reclaim it.

But despite those desks, that hunger for consumer electronics it’s a war that they’re steadily losing more and more with each passing day. School-age people are firmly entrenched in the device age — cell phone users are getting younger. Babies are issued a blanket, a rattle and an iPhone. One of the strangest gifts of the last holiday season was a children’s potty that came complete with a pedestal for an iPad.

The smartphone is an extension of the body, an electronic organ that can summon the entirety of human knowledge in seconds. The modern electronically inclined feel incomplete and unattached without their device — in school, or at work and just about anywhere they’re never too far from their cell phone. Sure, you might have a rule against that sort of thing. You might even enforce it every once in a while but you’re not going to get them all.

And our teachers could continue to play the eternal cat-and-mouse device confiscation game but I think it makes much more sense to embrace the future. Those kids are going to spend at least half of their time looking at their phone anyhow, so you might as well stock it with some useful educational information.

I think today’s adolescent is much more likely to engage with materials that can be accessed electronically. I think in the future we will see classrooms where everybody has to have some sort of device, be it personal or merely borrowed from the institution. Imagine a smart board that can send out pop quizzes to the class’ devices in a matter of seconds. Imagine a class period with more time for real learning, because you don’t have to waste any time passing out papers.

There was a quote in Cooke’s story that I thought was particularly poignant: “One of the main things (students) want to do is research right then in class, so if a teacher is talking about a certain topic they can go do further research, if they don’t understand something,” said Dana Bohon, a library aide and Library Media Skills class teacher at SCHS. “They want that ability to research right at that moment.”

I had Library Media Skills class with Ms. Bohon back in the day but that doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that she is exactly right.

When a student is confused about something they don’t have to raise their hand and interrupt the class to get some clarification, they can fire up that device that they brought and research the topic instantly in a way that makes it interesting to them. There’s a website out there that explains just about anything, and in a way that makes it work for all sorts of different kinds of learners. They can get exactly the level of engagement they need at their leisure so that our educators aren’t faced with the daunting task of teaching every student at the same pace, regardless of their various levels of understanding of the topic at hand.

And that will make more time for the educator to dedicate to the students who do learn better via personal interaction. For a while there will be some of them who struggle a little with electronically enhanced education and they also deserve to learn in their way, at least some of the time.

The Sedalia School District should be commended for willing to explore new educational avenues. I thought a BYOD program would be a long time coming and am pleasantly surprised and proud that we’re starting to keep up with the times.

We might be headed for a strange future where a student is scolded for not having their cell phone out, instead of the other way around.

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