This is the first in a summer blog series. Each week I will feature one technology tool and how well it worked integrating the technology into this fictional nineteenth century classroom.
"I think you're making a bigger deal out of it then it really is," Mr. Brown tells me.
"Think of the possibilities, Brown." I have a bad habit of dropping the titles in names, as though we're on a ball field. "My students can connect to students in other locations instantaneously. We're no longer confined by our own four walls."
"That's great. Really it is. But I'm still skeptical. I think it's a teacher-centered piece of technology."
"It doesn't have to be. I can have students take turns all day making phone calls and interacting with students in other places. You know my friend Paul the Pre-industrial Poet? His class is partnering with me in a phone-integrated project."
"Interesting. I hope it works out well. I'm just skeptical, that's all. I'm picturing a day when all the classrooms will have phones and the only one allowed to use them will be the teacher."
"Why are you so cynical about it?"
"If every child had a phone, it would get too noisy. Even if phones became cheap, teachers wouldn't want that stress. Plus, they can call the police or the fire department. So, teachers will do what they can to keep the phones near their desks."
"Maybe. But I'm thinking phones will be so commonplace that schools will have to let students use them."
"I don't know. Even if there were tiny phones, the size of a pocket watch, schools would still find ways to keep students from using them. Even if there was a silent way to communicate on a phone, a blend of phone conversations and shorthand messages, they'd still ban them."
"Wow, you really do have a cynical view."
"It's a legal issue. Schools are designed to mitigate liability. Nobody's ever sued a school for failing to protect a child's freedom. But they often sue if a school fails to protect a child's safety. You can go on and use the phone in your room. It's the early stage of classroom phones where there's still the possibility of it being used as a learning tool. Perhaps you can prove that they aren't all that scary. I just imagine that in a few years when we all have classroom phones, the district will create rules preventing students from using a potentially valuable tool."