From banning to embracing - 5 steps to meet the challenge

11/28/2012 12:00:00 AM
By Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb | Cross posted at the Teaching Generation Text blog


Talk about progress...

Just a year ago Teaching Generation Text:  Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning, hit the market during a time when most schools still viewed cell phones as the enemy. For many they were simply a device that caused discipline issues and were viewed as a distraction and a cheating tool.  

Today, pioneering educators and their students have embraced a number of ways cell phones can enhance learning paving the way for an exciting challenge. Innovative educators can get teams of students together to participate in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge which positions phones as a learning tool.

Teaching Generation Text looks at using basic, text enabled cell phones to support learning and enhance good teaching strategies.  That was just the tip of the iceberg and a way to open educators’ thinking to stop fighting and start embracing cell phones.  The Verizon Innovative App Challenge takes it to the next level by taking the tool they love and using it to address a need or problem with an app!  

The challenge puts students front and center which makes perfect sense. Students have always been the most important and driving force behind Teaching Generation Text whether it was including students in developing responsible use policies, establishing classroom management practices, or in planning lessons using cell phones, or making learning relevant and interesting.

According to the Verizon Foundation, students are challenged to use their STEM knowledge, their ingenuity, and their creativity to come up with an original mobile app concept that incorporates STEM and addresses a need or problem in their school or community.

Challenges like this bring us closer to a day when students will stop hearing things like, “Give me your phone, Quit texting, Put the phone away, Cell phones are banned here.” Instead this challenge positions these devices as a viable learning tool that will help student address a need or problem and use their creativity and thinking skills to develop solutions USING THEIR PHONE!   

Here are 5 Steps to Get Going with the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.
1.  Teamwork
Teamwork is an attitude that starts with the you, your administration, parents, and the staff in your school.  You may be in schools with various levels of acceptance for cell phones.  Here are some ideas.

  • Cell phones are banned - If cell phones are still banned in your school, you’ll need to check out our 6 Part Plan to Break the Ban in the appendix of Teaching Generation Text.  Working with administrators is key and this Verizon App Challenge may be the perfect avenue for a pilot program (step 5).
  • Cell phones are embraced - If cell phones are allowed, establish teamwork with parents and students while paving the way for success by making sure the Building Blocks for Success with Cell Phones are in place with parent/student agreements, safety and etiquette practices, responsible use policies, and classroom management procedures.  

2. Get social
Use social media to get students awareness and excitement going and focus on the real audience of this project.  When students see their learning as making a difference in their school, community, or the world it becomes more than just school, but life.  


3.  Build Momentum
Success breeds success.  By using cell phone technology from basic texting to the many wonderful educational apps already available, educators and students will experience how their learning can benefit, and the ideas for new and needed apps will start to flow.  Build on the strengths for learning and cell phone success that you are already experiencing.
  • Involve students in ways that cell phones can be used in your classroom.  You can use this lesson plan to use to start these conversations,
  • Encourage students to use cell phones for homework.  Don’t let a school ban stop you or your students from benefiting or taking the challenge. Do it outside of class.  
  • Establish great communication from the get go.  Set up group texting with a service such as Cel.ly for each of the teams participating in the competition.

4.  Make a Difference
When students view their learning as real, relevant, and applicable for more than just a standardized test, their creativity, interest, thinking, and commitment are ignited.  Students want to make the world a better place, we just have to listen. That’s exactly what this challenge does, to the tune of $10,000 prizes and Samsung Galaxy Tabs for all winners. Here’s how you can support this further:
  • Open doors to the future with personal learning networks - Cell phones are a perfect tool for establishing relationships on a global level that will assist young people in the competition in seeing needs, addressing problems, and creating their apps.  Innovative educators can empower students to use cell phones and all technology to make these connections and establish habits that will open doors for them during this challenge and throughout their education and life.
  • Let the students lead - Being in touch with and truly caring for our students led the Teaching Generation Text authors into paving the way for cell phones for learning.  If students prefered a method of communication or a learning tool, we were ready to value it as well because we value them.  Our favorite part of this initiative is that it makes sense.  Students should be valued as experts because they are.  They know what they need, what works, and what technology can do.  The apps that result from this challenge will be amazing!

5. Get Information
For more information visit this link, follow them on Twitter at @verizongiving or via hashtag #VZAppChallenge and like the Verizon Foundation on Facebook.

This project-based learning experience can enhance the educational environment of the entire school.  As educators who value student’s ability to take charge of their learning, use technology effectively, and make the world a better place, we salute the folks at Verizon for this initiative and encourage educators across the nation to share their initiative with students, form teams, and take the challenge.  

Willyn Webb, LPC, is an author, alternative high school counselor/teacher, adjunct professor and coauthor of Teaching Generation Text.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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