Back in the late 50’s one of my favorite shows was Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O’Brien. Wyatt Earp carried a gun called the “Buntline Special”. It was a gun designed by Ned Buntline a journalist, who designed a pistol with an extra long barrel. As an adult, I realized that it must have been barrel envy that prompted so many gunfights with Wyatt.
The one Law that Wyatt insisted on in the old west town of Tombstone Arizona, was “No Guns Allowed”. Firearm technology had advanced so much that the Colt .45 was a weapon that had to be restricted. There were laws to protect citizens, but Wyatt thought it to be easier to collect all firearms as the men (women played no significant part in TV westerns) entered the town. It was a pain in the neck but way easier than dealing with those cowpokes using their guns. As the song went on Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, Brave, Courageous, and Bold. Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, long may his story be told.Fifty years later I am still telling the story.
Moving ahead in the space-time continuum I found myself visiting the 1964 world’s fair in Flushing, New York. You may remember the site of the Fair as it was imortalized in the movie Men in Black. That fair was about the Future. Most of the pavilions hosted exhibits telling of what life would be like in the 21st Century. They promised Flying Cars, my favorite prediction. Many of the exhibits talked about the Technology of the future and how kids would learn using Technology. I do not remember the specifics since that was so many years ago, but I loved future predictions like: Someday kids will have powerful computers the size of a deck of cards. These computers will be able to seek out and deliver information in various forms to these kids. They would be able to exchange ideas and collaborate globally. Back in 1964 that would have been a radical concept way beyond anything in existence.
Shortly after that World’s Fair, we landed men on the Moon. Amazingly, many of those World’s Fair predictions have come true. I am still waiting for those Flying cars. Now we move closer to the 21st Century. No more of the Old West is left. Technology has moved at a rapid pace since that Fair. Kids carry in their pockets computers that are more powerful than those used to place men on the moon. Students may use these computers for all that was predicted. For an educator it is beyond imagination to have students equipped with the ability to access information pertinent to learning at any time. These tools of technology go way beyond anything really imagined from the 60’s.
Now I need to tie things together so that this all makes sense. In many districts across the land we have educational leaders who see themselves as Wyatt Earp. They have discipline policies in place. Every class has rules generated by the teacher, or collaboratively agreed upon by the class itself. There are established consequences for inappropriate actions. With all of this in place educators are not inclined to enforce their own discipline policies. NO CELLPHONES ALLOWED. This is not the wild west. Whatever happened to Brave , Courageous and Bold?
If a kid is using a cellphone in class, a teacher needs to do two things. First enforce the rule addressing inappropriate behavior in class. Second, reflect on why a student finds more engagement in cellphone use than engagement in the lesson for the day! As educators we are the adults in the room. We need to Guide our students to appropriate behavior. In addition we need to model appropriate behavior. There are many teachers using their cellphones at inappropriate times.
We are dealing with many issues that did not exist even a few years ago. We need to proceed using common sense and focus on what is needed to promote and support Learning. Our students are not indentured servants. We have to guide them with the same respect we expect from them. I can only hope that a short time from now we will look back on these wild west policies of leaving cellphones at the door and ask, “What the hell were we thinking?’ Let us strive to harness the power of these very personal computers and have our students use them to engage in learning, and save its other functions for more appropriate times. While we are at it let’s direct students to use technology for speeding along the invention and implementation of flying cars. My selfish request.