Word’s breaking out on Twitter that the Pennsylvania General Assembly has recently been presented with House Bill 363. I will henceforth refer to this as the Luddite Bill. The Luddite Bill wants to amend the PA Public School Code to say the following:
The possession by students of telephone paging devices, commonly referred to as beepers, cellular telephones and portable electronic devices that record or play audio or video material shall be prohibited on school grounds, at school sponsored activities and on buses or other vehicles provided by the school district.
Needless to say, I have a problem with this. First, I will let it be known that my school has a ban on cell phones, and, as a faculty member, I have enforced the rule by taking away the cell phones of students who use them during school hours. That rule is a decision made on the local level, based on the needs and wishes of the building administrators and the school board. I have no doubt that the rules could change over time or have some added flexibility. We already provide some of that, as students are now at least free to have their phones and use them after school as needed. This law would take that flexibility away from us. According to this law, with few notable emergency exceptions, students would not be allowed to ever bring a phone to school for any reason whatsoever.
A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought this a big deal, but to take away the option of teachers allowing cell phone use in their classrooms to me now seems ludicrous. Right now we stand on the brink of a major shift in computing resources available to students in their pockets, with phones as powerful as a computer from only a few years ago. People who want to ban these tools really need to check out Cell Phones in Learning. Honestly, if you think we really want you to take away more teaching options from us, you re sorely mistaken.
Update 1: for another perspective, check out Jimbo Lamb’s post here.
Update 3: Liz Kolb gets unsurprisingly angry.
Update 7: Lisa Thumann tells how she first found out about the bill.