It’s a pedagogical problem. . .

I’ve got this wicked mashup blog post brewing in my mind right now that has been burbling ever since I stumbled across a conversation that Scott McLeod started over on his blog after sharing this slide with his readers:

While reading through the comments, I was relatively blown away by the number of readers who were like a thousand-percent opposed to the idea that cell phones could be used as an instructional tool.

Some were concerned about the potential for students to take inappropriate pictures of peers without their knowledge, but most were just plain peeved because students were spending more time texting friends in class than paying attention to the teacher.

Barry probably expressed these concerns best when he wrote:

Scott- I know what you are trying to say with the slide and in theory, I agree agree with you. The practical reality of high school (and even grad school) is that most student use their cell phones to text their friends or to make phone calls. From anecdotal observation, I see very few kids using phones for academic research, academic photography, or academic messaging for collaboration on a topic…

Adults and students alike becoming to the point of rude where they refuse to engage with a teacher or instructor because they are too focused on their handheld….the list goes on.

I may be naive, but aren’t distracted students texting from the back of the classroom pretty convincing evidence of poor teaching?

Here’s what I mean:  Most classrooms that I’ve been in lately are miserably disconnected, slow places where learning is limited times ten! We expect kids who were born in the “multi-generation”—multi-tasking, multimedia—to sit quietly and absorb information for 90 minutes at a crack, and—-as this student made video so clearly shows—to use old-school learning tools when they know that there are more efficient ways to interact with content.

No wonder they’re texting one another all class period long!

All that I know is when I teach a killer lesson on content that is motivating to my kids, NOTHING distracts them—and those are my favorite moments.

You know what I’m talking about:  The days when the kids groan when the bell rings because they were completely engaged in something that turned on their minds.  The days when kids ask to stay in from lunch because they want to get one more thing done.  The days when you’re surrounded by kids with questions at the end of the period.

Now, I won’t lie:  It takes serious effort to craft lessons that resonate.  With middle schoolers, there has to be opportunities for interaction, opportunities to compete, and opportunities to wrestle with issues of justice and injustice before you’re guaranteed to hit the intellectual funny bones of an entire class.

But that’s our job, isn’t it?  Aren’t we supposed to be able to put together learning experiences that matter?  And if we can’t shouldn’t we be ready for distracted students?

The way I see it, cell phones aren’t causing distracted students in our schools.

Boring lessons are.

My buddy Dina Strasser says it this way:

(download and view original image credit on Flickr here)

I’d take it one step farther, Di:  I’d say when you’re working with people who don’t even know how to craft a lesson to motivate their students—and then blame “management” failures on anything and everything other than their own actions and decisions—the pedagogical problem has nothing to do with technology.

It has to do with teachers.

Waiting to be torched,