stumbling through computer science

Author: hayleyteaches (page 2 of 2)

Cellphones: Here to Stay. 

This blog post stems from our discussion of Digital Literacy in the 21st Century with Jessie Miller of Mediated Reality.

(Twitter: @MediatedReality) (Website:

All or Nothing

In September 2018, Central Middle School banned the use of cellphones on school property. Students were asked to leave their devices at home, and if they brought their cellphones to school the devices would be confiscated. During my teaching program, we visited Central Middle School, and I was delighted to see how progressive and tech-forward this school was; I couldn’t wait to apply for a practicum there with the hopes of working there once I graduated. To me, this was a forward thinking, tech-embracing, 3D printing, laptop-using middle school who was ahead of the curve for progressive education. Which is why, when this announcement was made about the cellphone ban, I was shocked. What could be so bad about cellphones that they aren’t even allowed on school property?

The principal of Central expressed that the staff felt there was very little – if not any – educational benefit of students having cell phones in their hands at school.

Central Middle School’s Cell Phone Ban Article

This ban led to me to think about the pros and cons of cellphone use in the classroom. This can’t be a black and white issue. Surely, we can find a way to embrace these devices and incorporate their uses into our lessons and teaching practice?

While many parents allow children free rein of the internet at home, it’s a common debate in education circles on how—and if—digital devices should be allowed at school. Supporters of technology in the classroom say that using laptops, tablets, and cellphones in the classroom can keep students engaged. Technology is what they know. Most students today don’t even remember a time without the internet. But critics say it’s yet another distraction in the classroom. From social media to texting, allowing digital devices could hinder a student’s performance in the classroom.

Mobile devices in education, from the students perspective.

Pros of Cellphones in the Classroom

Cons of Cellphones in the Classroom

Negative health impacts of screen time in adolescents article mentioned in the recording above.

Check out this TedTalk about the negative effects that screen time, at any age, can have on our overall happiness:

Communication is Key

In my classroom, I struggle to keep students off of their cellphones. I use techniques like giving them “the look”, standing next to them while they are texting, or blatantly calling them out in class for using their phones. Usually, they respond with an eye roll, a sassy remark, but then put it back into their pocket or facedown on their desk. My classroom policy for cellphones is that the students are allowed to have their phones facedown on their desk, with their music on shuffle. If they  need to look at their phones, it is only to change music quickly. They know that if they are waiting for a text or call from their parent/guardian, their best bet to avoid having their phone taken away is to let me know why they need their phone that day. Open communication is key for me – if there is something going on in your life that you need your phone for, let me know and I am happy to let you keep an eye out for those messages.

No cellphone jails in my classroom! (Hayley Atkins, 2019)

Jails, Boxes, Shoe Racks…

I have seen other classrooms and schools create cellphone jails, boxes of shame, cellphone cubbies, or even just a tub where phones are to be dumped before class starts. You can check some of them out in the link below:

Cell Phone Jail and Other Classroom Tips

I would not want to be responsible for all of these expensive devices, use class time to collect all of the phones, or have to communicate with parents/guardians who may disagree with this “cellphone jail”. For me, building relationships, trust, and communication with the students around my expectations for cellphones is how I manage cellphone use in my class.

Twitter: @ddmeyer


Cellphones are here to stay, and the more schools try to fight it, the more difficult it will be to get students off of their screens and back into the classroom. There is a place in school for cellphones, but if digital devices are permitted, there should be guidelines and rules in place.

Digital literacy and digital citizenship should become part of the new BC curriculum. Right now, the only place I see where it can fit is into Computer Science, Career Education, and ADST? I would be curious to start an EdChat on Twitter regarding where these issues could fit…

There are lots of resources for teaching the concepts of digital literacy / citizenship. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has comprehensive standards for students to be successful in the digital world. A resource I would recommend trying in your class is a digital citizenship game developed by ISTE and Google called Interland. This games shows kids how to manage their digital footprint and avoid hackers, phishers, oversharers, and bullies online!

If the students are going to become digitally aware and literate, it is important that the administration and staff become tech-literate as well. In order to incorporate digital literacy/citizenship in the classroom, teachers need proper support in training, professional development, and curriculum implementation. I believe most teachers want their students to be safer online, but are quite busy with the other demands in their classroom to really follow through with developing their own lessons around this topic. For busy teachers, like myself, a great place to start for curriculum and Pro-D resources is Common Sense Media. To effectively use the resources on this website, it is important that teachers take the time to collaborate, plan, and create a meaningful lesson about digital devices in their classroom – this would be a great Pro-D day topic!

Digital devices are great learning tools to embrace our ever changing, increasingly online world. In the classroom, devices are utilized best when there are specific goals for their use, focusing on student online safety, digital citizenship, and critical thinking.

I would like to explore the comparison between cellphone use in gym / sports and in the typical classroom. Would changing your classroom layout and activities reduce screen time and temptation? Is there a place for Movement Based Learning in the math classroom? Also a great #BCEdChat topic..

5 Useful Blogs, #s, and @s

Twitter – It’s a big expansive place, with lots of resources, but who has the time to sort through it all?

Here are a few useful #s, @s, and blogs to help you get started.

5 #s:






What’s missing? I am still on the hunt for a First Nations Education Chat… 

5 @s:






5 Blogs:

Resources for new CS Teachers 


The New Value of Education

Admittance: At What Cost?

When it comes to student access, High Tech High took a stand and opened their doors to those students who are classified as being the lowest on the education and economic scale. A school that looks like a top of the line, “Google-esq” establishment, is actually a free public school. The school’s selected students are those who come from rough backgrounds and low-income areas. This helps to reduce the barrier of attending progressive “tech” schools which would normally only be attended by wealthy students from upper class neighbourhoods and backgrounds.

Google Office… or High Tech High Classroom? “” by Marcin Wichary is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As the reader/viewer of this video, I raise a few issues of selecting students only based on their parents’ income:
  • Why should it be based on the salary of parents, when these children who may benefit from attending High Tech high are now not able to attend because they come from a higher income family? Reducing a barrier for those of lower income actually creates a barrier for others.
  • It is common for those higher income families to want their child to be successful in school, no matter what cost. Some wealthy parents are willing to pay for whatever tutoring, laptops, or learning aids their child may need so that they can achieve As and be accepted into their alma matter. While their grades may reflect success, many of these students may not have learned very much because of this sheltered system. What they show in book smarts, they lack in street smarts and perseverance. I wonder who would deliver more grit? A student who has only known how to use the support of others, or the student who has never been able to afford a tutor? It would be interesting to compare the success of each type of student at High Tech High.

As a teacher, we need to think critically and holistically about who our students are and what their backgrounds are. We can’t assume that the students who come from wealthy families are going to be inherently successful. While in the same thought, we can’t assume that the students who come from less-wealthy families will come with grit and determination. I understand that economic status is a common and efficient way to categorize people, but I would be curious if there is another way to assess which students would truly benefit from attending High Tech High.

As the researcher/creator of High Tech High, the main issues this school aims to address are those of social inequality and social differentiation. Social inequality is the unequal distribution of resources within a society. Social differentiation is the idea that people can be categorized based on characteristics including race, income, education and geography. Social differentiation is a key for fuelling social inequality; who you are and where you are from can have a large impact on the privileges that you have. High Tech High is focussing on limiting the social inequality that income and wealth can have on the accessibility to fair and open education, and ultimately lifelong success.

Influence for this analysis came from:

Power Privilege and Oppression – Graduate School of Social Work -DU Licensed under CC

Does Sacrifice Equal Dedication?

Teachers at High Tech High are hired based on subject need and specialization; their contracts expire each year and they are paid less than the average American teacher. As a reader/watcher of this video, I applaud these teachers and have respect for their passion as educators. They are willing to sacrifice their job stability and have a lower wage because they are committed to the work that High Tech High is aiming to accomplish. The teachers see themselves as part of the greater good, rather than how they are being treated individually. As a reader/watcher, I can admit to myself that I would not be comfortable with this uncertainty – but does this mean that I am not as dedicated a teacher? The research does acknowledge this feeling of uncertainty these teachers feel, but its main objective of creating a project-based-learning and needs based school justifies this feeling of professional insecurity.

Behind the Scenes

High Tech High uses a completely self-directed, unstructured approach to learning, which enables full student autonomy. There are no standardized tests, and projects are used to “grade” and assess student learning.

From the researchers point of view, this is a progressive new model focusing on the shortcomings of the traditional way of learning and testing. The researcher highlights how standardized tests can be inaccurate, cater towards one style of learner, and do not reflect a learner’s overall profile. This researcher’s view would correlate strongly with the reading “Teaching for Meaningful Learning,” where Dr. Barron and Darling-Hammond argue that the focus of learning and education should be about knowledge growth for the individual and collective group. From a reader/watcher’s point of view, High Tech High’s unstructured learning approach emphasizes engagement and collaboration to develop collective knowledge. What I noticed is that the content and background knowledge on robotics, woodworking, or other skills needed for these projects, was not included in this film or part of the “researched” content. This challenged my belief and comfort level of a teacher that students need to have the core skills and content to be able to take this project based learning into their own hands and apply these skills to larger ideas and into a broader context. An example of this from High Tech High, is how did the students know how to physically build the large cog wheel, if the teacher did not explicitly show them how to in a traditional way? Was there direct instruction happening between the students and teacher behind the scenes? I wonder if the researcher decided to not focus on the traditional note-taking or direct instruction that may happen at points throughout the day, and instead emphasize the project based learning that happens after those instructions.

Social Butterfly vs. Wallflower

Walking through the hallways of High Tech High, it is easy to get carried away looking at the artwork, robots, and other visually intriguing projects that fill the halls. It was fascinating to watch the students painstakingly piece together the intricate cog, or set up the best lighting system to showcase their play, but is this just an illusion of the success of project based learning? It is no wonder that project based learning gets showcased in social media more, because it is a more interesting process of learning to the audience/reader. People are more interested in watching a class build a robot battle arena then watch them master complex algebraic equations – but which group is learning more? Is the flashier learning more valuable than the intrinsic problem solving?

A “Boring” Perspective of Learning “Home Work” by Sam & Sophie Images is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Flashy, “Social Media” worthy learning! “P1030079” by __andrew is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

In my own classroom, I am hesitant to post on Facebook the “boring” photos of students completing math worksheets, or solving word problems, because I fear I will be labelled the “boring” math teacher. I know that these worksheets are building foundational skills of fractions, long division and algebraic equations so that we can then work on projects dealing with slope and velocity of racecar tracks. Why am I only showcasing the flashy work at the end rather than celebrating the internal process that happens before those projects can even develop?

These thoughts about flashy vs. unflashy lessons and work lead me to want to explore the perception of Project Based Learning from the teachers point of view when it comes to the amount of lesson planning and effort it takes to teach in this way…  Can Project Based Learning Lead to Lazy Teaching? Another blog post to come!

This blog post explores the documentary, Most Likely to Succeed and related readings, Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching by Paul A. Kirschner, John Sweller  & Richard E. Clark (2010), Teaching for Meaningful Learning by Dr. Barron & Darling-Hammond, StanfordU, and 
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