Oklahoma Educators Have a Lot to Learn

Oklahoma Educators Have a Lot to Learn

In 5,000 years, we have not changed how we teach school. We still have one teacher standing in front of a classroom, lecturing.

Think about that. In 5,000 years, empires and civilizations have risen and fallen. We have created the chariot, the automobile, the airplane, and shuttles that can take people into space. We have invented the printing press, movable type, typewriters, and computers. We invented alphabets, invented books, newspapers, and the Internet. We invented radio, television, and telephones. And now we can communicate by video on a telephone the size of a deck of cards.

But in 5,000 years, we have not found a newer, better way to teach. We still have one person lecturing to a group of 10, 30, 500 people, forcing everyone to learn the exact same material at the exact same pace.

Even though research has proven again and again that people have different learning styles, we have educated billions and billions of people for more than 50 centuries using the very same boring, unimaginative, tedious method as every other teacher. On. The. Planet.

It's not the teachers' fault. It's the job they're expected to do. It's how they were trained. But no one has really come up with anything new.

Until now.

Some pioneering teachers around the world are starting to break with tradition by allowing students to use smartphones (iPhones and Androids) and tablets (iPads and ebook readers) as a way to share information and educate students.

"This will encourage students to goof around," say opponents who still think a 5,000 year old teaching method is the only way to learn. "It will disrupt their education."

"We can't have kids using technology like this in the classroom. How do we know if they're paying attention?" say opponents, echoing statements from 35 years ago when they wanted to put a TV in my 4th grade classroom.

This problem may come to a head within the next five years, as more and more educational information is being put online, and can only be accessed by via laptops and wifi connections, tablets, or cell phones. There will come a time when there is so much good information that a teacher cannot be expected to teach it all, let alone know it all.

That time is not today. There are still schools that are cracking down on students who use their phones in the classroom. Whether they're texting, playing games, taking photos of a teacher taking a nap in class, watching videos, students are not allowed to—

Wait, what?

In Mustang, Oklahoma, a ninth grade student was suspended for taking a picture with his mobile phone of a substitute teacher taking a nap during class, according to a story from the KOCO website, Oklahoma City's ABC affiliate.

Needless to say, the principal's short-sightedness has some parents fairly upset.

"If anything, they should have been reprimanded for having a phone, but they probably took it to an extreme because they caught a teacher doing something they weren't supposed to be doing," said Steven Graulich, a parent, who is apparently a big fan of the word "they."

District officials refuse to discuss any details, but they did say they would take "appropriate follow-up action" against the substitute teacher. Officials also reiterated the rule that students are allowed to have a "telecommunication device" at school, but just are not allowed to use it during the school day.

(Leave it to a bureaucrat to say "telecommunication device" when the rest of the world says "phone.")

In other words, if the student instead had a digital camera, that would have been okay.

While this is a mild case of Zero Tolerance, I'm still surprised that the school would suspend a student for catching a teacher doing something that is even more against the rules.

It's like punishing a student for yelling in school when she warns everyone about a fire. Or for using the Heimlich maneuver to save another student, despite a strict "no hugging" policy.

Despite — or maybe because of — using the same teaching methods for the past 5,000 years, many school administrators have lost all common sense when it comes to dealing with certain situations. This is one of those situations. Rather than suspend the student, why not just remind him or her of the "no mobile phone" policy, and thank him for bringing a very serious matter to their attention?

Hopefully the national attention this story is getting will help the administration recognize its short-sightedness and they will actually learn from it. It could be one of the few times an educator learned something that didn't come from a classroom.

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