This first person account on teachermagazine.org of a teacher who was able to get her class on task when she allowed them 30 minutes every Friday to listen to their iPods raises a couple of interesting points, some of which relate directly to issues covered on the Digital Education blog about technology’s role in the classroom. Apparently, that half hour of listening time once a week was enough of a reward that teacher Jennifer McDaniel’s 9th grade students would spend that time working diligently. However, when McDaniel shared her new technique with her colleagues, she was informed that allowing students to listen to personal electronic devices during school time was prohibited, effectively stopping the Friday tradition in its tracks.
I’m sort of divided on this issue. I think it’s great that McDaniel was able to find a solution to calm the class down and keep them on track, but I do have a few concerns about listening to music while doing classwork. I know that listening to music is something that helps a lot of people concentrate—myself included—but I know it can definitely be a distraction for others, and I’m not sure that if 9th graders are given the choice of listening or not, they would choose to put away the iPod even if they could get more work done otherwise. Then again, if they’re normally too busy talking to friends and goofing off, then maybe the iPod is a good way to keep them on task.
The other concern I have is—what about students who don’t have iPods? That doesn’t seem to be a problem in McDaniel’s classroom, but I’m sure it would be in others. It seems like that reward could potentially leave some kids out.
This anecdote also speaks to a broader issue about whether or not electronic devices, like cell phones and iPods, have the potential to be learning tools or are simply distractions. What do you think? Is it fair to prohibit the use of those kinds of devices in the classroom? Or are we limiting our options by banning them altogether?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.