An Open Text To the President by Bob Sprankle
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February 25, 2009
TO: Pres-Elect Obama
FROM: Joe Student
SUBJ: PLEASE Keep the BlackBerry!
First of all, congratulations and good luck. I followed the election
and your transition on my SmartPhone (when I’m not in
school) and I realize that you’ve got a lot going on so I’ll keep
Since you’ve been called the first “Technology President,”
big things are being asked of you to help bring the rest of the
country into the 21st Century. I’m joining in to ask you to do one
other thing: don’t let them take your BlackBerry away.
If the most powerful leader in the world can’t use his personal
technology at work, then what chance do I have to ever
get to use mine at one of the places that I need it most? Right
now, when I come into school each morning, before I’m even
allowed to sit down, I have to put my smart phone in a box with
all the other students’ phones. It stays in this box all day behind
some teacher’s desk. The phones must be shut off before
being handed over and if your phone actually goes off and
rings inside the box, you will be sent to the office and given
detention after school.
I get that teachers want to control the phones because they
are worried about kids texting friends instead of paying attention,
or worse, using the phones to cheat. Here are some
answers to both of those concerns:
1) If kids are texting instead of paying attention, then maybe
the lesson needs to be more engaging or exciting.
2) If they’re using their phones to cheat on tests, then maybe
the tests need to be more challenging, asking students to synthesize
information, rather than just spit back facts.
One other thing: there are actually teachers out there who
want to use cell phones in their lessons, rather than ban them.
They see them as tools for learning, much like the slate, or paper,
or ink, or pens, or calculators. Of course those tools didn’t always
have acceptance in the beginning either.
Cell phones are the new “scratch paper.” You know, the paper
we’re given to work out our problems on during a math test?
One of my teachers said we have that so that we can use it to
work out the “mundane tasks” of computation so our minds can
be freed up to work on the harder, “higher level” stuff.
I trust you’ll do the right thing, because after all, you’ve
already got your Weekly Radio Addresses up on YouTube and
clearly you’ve changed the campaign game with your use of
Thanks for taking the time to read this text—on your
Joe the Student, Class of 2009