Assignments On Phones

I keep warning my middle school eighth grades students that one day they’ll groan at the teacher about assignments given on their phones. I predicted it would happen to them in high school, but they had their doubts. Seems this may be closer than they realize:

Teachers begin using cell phones for class lessons — AP: Yahoo! Tech

The students in the article are like mine — they love their phones. My students think they would love to use them at school. They don’t realize that they’d have to learn to use them in a way that helps them learn. Adults have had to learn (or still have to learn) how to use the technology in a way that doesn’t cause problems. It was interesting to watch this learning happen as I went through college and grad school.

Eventually, students won’t crave the use of their phones in class, but I am excited about the thought of the first time I’m allowed by my district to start including such common technology in the classroom.

Update 24 June 2010: My district has added portable electronics to the list of things I can “request approval” of for a lesson. I just have to design a lesson and fill out the form, and then the Director of Instruction for my building signs off on it. Now I have two choices: quickly include it in a lesson as a gimmick, or spend some real time thinking about the most authentic and effective use of personal tech to enhance lessons I teach.

Teachers and Social Networking with Dual Personas

(edit: six months later, here’s a related article: Facebook’s Gone Rogue; It’s Time for an Open Alternative | Epicenter |

“He accidentally hit ‘accept as friend’ and realized what he had done and quickly undid it,” one teacher told us about another in our building during our lunchtime discussion of a certain social networking site this week. The clumsy teacher had to fix his mistake because he was concerned about the student who tried to friend him having access to personal information.

I have had accounts with most of the social networking services since each one was started. This is the result of hearing about their creation while listening to netcasts such as those on the TWiT network. I sign up for every new service, so I can reserve the username “mrHeyer” (or something close), and to see if it will have a positive affect on my life in any way. The services never caught on much with my friends because we already have our own websites as our web presence and prefer to communicate via text, IM, on the phone, or in person.

Now that I have an audience, and because my website is focused on academic content, I have been feeling that social networking would offer me a way to share other interests with my students. When I was a student in elementary, middle, and high school, I always learned more from teachers who showed they were interested in more than just their content areas. Those that lived too much within their love of the subject weren’t as successful at luring me into an appreciation of the material. I find as a teacher, students appreciate when I get chance to share my interest in science, music, art, gadgets, and more. I don’t get that chance as often as I would like during class, so sharing on the web seems like a great option.

So, how am I planning share only the parts of my life I choose while keeping other parts private?  The answer: two accounts per service.  It is against the terms of service of some services, though Facebook Pages are one way to do this in with permission of the social network. I hope in the future more services offer this kind of split personality functionality, even if it’s just for public figures such as teachers.

Now, how do I make sure students only find the accounts I want them to? I have created links from my website to each of my accounts. This way search engines are more familiar with those accounts than the ones I use to keep in contact with my friends and family. When a student searches for me, they find the accounts I want them to. A recent post on the Official Google Blog titled, “Managing your reputation through search results,” discusses this strategy (by encouraging people to make Google profile pages) to help manage one’s online persona. The intention of the Google Blog post is to create your canonical identity on the web, but it would work just as well to create two personas instead.