Reddit Teachers Swap Stories about Gadgets in the Classroom

A popular thread on Reddit asked “K-12 Teachers of Reddit: How bad are the cell phone/iPod/iPad/iTouch/mp3 situations in your classroom?” Reddit’s power of anonymity allows people to express views and feelings in a safe environment, often resulting in revelatory truths that are fascinating and entertaining. Of course, with most Reddit threads, the energetic commentary often leads to profanity, so we don’t recommend this post to young readers. But we simply must share a few of the excellent comments that popped up.

The top-voted comment included a scheme between a student and her teacher to publicly destroy her iPhone (which was broken anyways) to provide an example to the rest of the students about the taboo of using phones in class. “Never seen a single band kid since use their phone in rehearsal since,” the poster writes.

Then there is a comment of painful accuracy, harping on schools that provide technology to their students without any real suggestion on how to use them: “A cart of 20 iPods is useless in middle school classes of 20-26 students, and a teacher without an overhead projector. They always make the argument “we need to prepare students for the 21st century.” Oh really? And we will achieve that by wasting money on iPods to be used in a history class about ancient civilizations? Maybe if we had a computer class that taught kids how to type and search for information we would all be better served?”

One teacher then responded with a “throwaway account”—something you use when you don’t want to post publicly, because as the poster noted, “you can’t trash talk a school and have a job later”—about a school that desperately needs facility renovations and greater attention paid to keeping kids from dropping out. But no, the school got 30 brand new TI-inspire calculators. “I know it’s most likely a tech grant, so the school had no choice in what to put it to, but seriously? The place needs to be fixed, and the school should be creating community and family programs so the students aren’t dropping out to a life on the streets.”

Here’s an optimistic comment on Bring Your Own Device, from a history teacher at a middle school with “a couple of barely functional PCs.” He said that by encouraging the students to use their own devices, it actually cuts down on inappropriate usage of them, because students know that if they abuse them by texting in class, they’d get it taken away and have to resort to the substandard classroom PCs instead of their shiny device.

There was also a comment from a high school senior student who wrote about how his district has allowed its teachers to use their own discretion about what kinds of devices are used in class: “Most teachers allow iPods for the calculator function and for accessing the internet when appropriate. Some will let you listen to music when just working on stuff. Our district has a strong focus on using technology to the learner’s advantage and it really does work. We’re slowly getting higher graduation rates and better test scores each year.”

The entire thread is an entertaining romp through the many scenarios that teachers of 21st century classrooms experience. You get the full spectrum, from teachers working in affluent neighborhoods to those who work in areas of poverty and low graduation rates. The general feel is that technology can be useful in the classroom, but only if you address the core needs of education first. It’s an honest view of what it’s like to be a teacher today, and I encourage you to read through all the comments.