Roll Away Your Stone

5 Mar

Having just returned from CADA (California Association of Directors of Activities), I want to recap one of the more important themes I try to drive home with technology: social and emotional intelligence is one of the most important things we can teach. It’s not new, as activity directors we address this every day through our project planning, group communication/interaction, and mass communication with the campus. Jamie Casap – Google Education Evangelist – said it best last year during his keynote when he said, “If kids are getting hit by cars, we don’t ban automobiles. We teach kids how to cross the street.” With technology, we do the opposite, constantly banning that which wold make a great teaching tool.

In education we do a lot with statistics: test scores, grading curves, attendance, and the like. However, we never do the same with communication. Research by by both Pew and Nielsen both tell us that over 72% of people between the ages of 17 and 35 check Facebook before they check their email. So my questions, why are schools not on Facebook? Why are more schools not teaching kids the benefits of Facebook? Where schools see problems they often ban: gum, tagging, cell phones … anything that becomes an issue on campus. At no point is time given to why something is bad or what makes an issue better. We simply tell kids they can’t do it anymore.

When I started using technology in my classroom it was with cell phones. The kids had them, they were texting in class, and I was tired of taking them away. So, I started to develop my own classroom procedures to control the phones and start to add assignments kids could complete in class. For example, I would tell my students to take out their phones at the start of class and turn them off; something many of them had never been told before. At the same time, I would also tell my students to take out their phones to use during an assignment. The rational being that professionals are expected to turn their phones off and on at certain times. Additionally, professionals are expecte to know how to use their phones to problem solve and communicate while still being efficient on company time. However, we don’t teach those concepts to our students – we tell them to not show their phones and are left with teachers chasing students because the corner of a phone is sticking out of a kid’s pocket.

Thanks to my wonderful experience in student activities I do not spend much of my time the first two weeks of school doing a lot of curriculum instruction. I spend a lot of time doing ice breakers and other activities to establish expectations and demonstrate to my students what the rules of the class will be. I demonstrate the rules, I don’t preach the rules. Within that framework, the kids are able to agree to what is respectful and appropriate versus me telling them what is respectful and appropriate. In the end, I have greater buy-in and less hassle when enforcing class rule sand procedures. In the end, I have students who are better communicators as well as students who are developing skills with their technology that many employers expect them to have when the students enter the workforce.

In the end, know that by banning anything at your school will result in teachers missing a great teachable moment. Technology is not magic bullet to student performance, it is an extension of good teaching and is a tool to engage students – much like a slate and chalk were used 100 years ago to check for understanding – we work with the gadgets of our age. Technology is not the safety issue, the social interactions that take place as a result of our culture and community dictate what is happening online. That is why it is called social media – without the social aspect it has no value. So, before we ban let us teach. Let us prepare kids for their professional lives and show them how a successful person can use social media to build networks versus using social media to tear people down. If we teach social and emotional intelligence to our students in their daily life in their personal interactions, we will see the same results in their online interactions. That’s teaching.


4 Responses to “Roll Away Your Stone”

  1. 2footgiraffe March 5, 2012 at 3:25 am #

    Love your post. I’m curious about the type of icebreakers you use and how you model appropriate tech behavior. Great ideas!

    • Matt March 5, 2012 at 4:21 am #

      I did a podcast with a speaker by the name of Phil Boyte a few years back. Here are some great first day activities: There is another great book called 10 Minute Lessons and More 10 Minute Lessons by Ron Jones – one of the first books I ever bought. I like to do a variation of Rock, Paper and Scissors. I give the kids a card and tell them to play. Then, I tell them to play Rock, Paper and Scissors but they can only play one shape. Last, they have to declare what shape they will play at the end of the game. I use this to teach motivation, the idea being that if we make up our minds ahead of time we often have no desire to participate (and kids will stop playing by the third round). I will go in to more detail on this one. I also do activities where kids get to interact a lot, either in lines and we rotate, knee to knee and eye to eye (sitting and facing each other), we do a lot of shares and celebrations at the start of class. Additionally, we have a pretty strong freshman orientation program, we do work with the local middle schools, so we have done some school wide work to try and make our kids feel connected as well; it’s not just my classroom. As for cell phones, I am very specific. I do some lessons on appropriate sharing, what’s good or bad. Examples of kids who were bullied online and what happened. When a phone should be on or off etc. That post can be found here: If I can be of any more help please let me know. If you find anything please let me know. I love this topic.

  2. phil March 5, 2012 at 3:26 am #

    Matt – thanks for a great start of a long conversation coming in education for the next few years

    • Matt March 5, 2012 at 4:21 am #

      Thanks Phil – if I can make them think I might be able to change this system.

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