Gus the hacker puppeteer writes, "While looking for Google-autocompleted questions about the media to answer on The Media Show, we started typing 'how do cell phones…' and Google came back with '…distract students.'"
As someone who spent seven years doing graduate work on education and technology, questions like these drive me crazy. The worst questions people ask about ed tech are ones I think of as "cave-man questions." They tend to be shaped bluntly, and be about crude, one-sided value judgments: I tend to sum them up by grunting "IS VIDEO GAME DO BAD TO CHILD?!!!1" We've parodied this before in our episode "Is The Internet Good Or Bad?" (another search which shows up on Google autocomplete, and which we hope was not spurred by terrible school writing assignments).
Societies have been asking these questions about new media at least as far back as the dawn of radio and comic books, which were also seen as potentially damaging to children. Heck, our professors at Teachers College taught us that Victorian educators were worried that chalkboards would cause disruption in the classroom. And among the ancient Greeks, there was some concern that learning to write would hurt young people's memory! On the flip side, there have been waves of positive hype about how closed-circuit TV channels, video games, and, most recently, virtual reality would transform education forever.
My gut reactions to the question "How do cell phones distract students?" were, "well, what are they doing on their phones? How do we know it's bad? What if they're actually doing something worthwhile, and by taking away their phones we're wasting their time?"
So here is The Media Show's fantasia on what a cell-phone-enabled classroom could look like — at least once someone develops Uber for teachers.