Technology Toys vs Technology Tools


cellphone-in-class-483x335-482x335I have a beautiful computer lab, stocked with 30 ‘almost’ new iMacs.  It’s a beautiful sight to behold, especially if the network and PLN are running smoothly.  Students arrive, log into their accounts, check my website to get the latest assignments and projects, and then…click on their smart phones to play games, text their friends or check their Instagram accounts.  Even in a class where they have access to the latest technology, students still have a desperate need to be using their smart phones for socializing or games.  I know I am not alone in this battle of personal device usage; however, with the latest trend being to utilize BYOD in the classroom, it can be an uphill battle for even the most laid-back teacher.

The question is: how do we deal with the disconnect between technology as a learning tool, and technology as a toy?  How do we help students see that the same device used to text friends and check social networks can help complete school projects?  I believe it comes down to this: we need to help students understand how to utilize their devices for learning while simultaneously disciplining them to resist the temptation to “play” during class time.


Huge pause while you process the fact I’ve used the term “discipline” when referring to student learning.  Well, “discipline” means to train.  When we discipline our own children, we do it to build character and moreover, to train them to change their behaviours.  Students use their smart phones, their iPads, and even their laptops as a means to play, whether that is to socialize or literally play games.  This is 100% acceptable usage of these technologies…except in the classroom.  To suddenly ask them to have their toys  at their fingertips yet expect their usual behaviour to stop–without training them otherwise–is ridiculous.

We need to address this issue before we can start planning to ask students to BYOD into our classrooms.  Discipline is needed, and it might start with us as teachers determining whether or not we are prepared to retrain our students properly when it comes to device usage in the classroom.

How do you deal with devices in your classroom?  What is your policy?  Is it already futile?

How can we train students to understand that technology in the classroom is 100% for learning, and that socializing/playing needs to wait? Is it even possible??


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