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Making the case for student-controlled devices

By Sam Gliksman
June 17th, 2013

It’s time to let go of the notion that we need to control student behavior, Gliksman writes.

One of the benefits of getting older is that you can reflect back on a time when things were done differently. Similarly, you can also clearly see when other things are essentially the same. Although the world around our schools is dramatically different, many of the pillars of our educational systems remain unchanged. Given the dramatic and accelerating transformation in the world around us, it’s certainly time to reflect upon how we conduct the business of schooling.

Many have already started down this path. We acknowledge the clear need to move from “sage on the stage” teaching to student-empowered learning. We realize that our old content delivery models of education need to be replaced with more experiential and discovery based processes. We understand the limitations of a text-only approach and try to integrate different forms of media. Now, it’s time to revise another sacred cow that has been symptomatic of institutional education since its inception.

It’s time to let go of the notion that we need to control student behavior. It’s time to realize that we cannot, and should not, dictate the manner in which students learn. One area where the desire for control is clearly manifested is our use of technology in school.

Now, before you fire up that impassioned response, let me clarify that I’m not advocating a complete hands-off policy that gives students the freedom to do whatever they desire. There’s a clear distinction between “protection” and “control.” Protecting students from accidentally getting a computer virus or being routed to a pornography website is important. Deciding what apps they use; preventing them from managing their devices; undue censorship of internet activity—these are control issues.

(Next page: Seven recommendations for school leaders)

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