Collin County students using cell phones as learning aid

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by DEBBIE DENMON

WFAA

Posted on April 17, 2012 at 6:43 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 17 at 8:29 PM

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Should students be permitted to use their cell phone to record classroom lectures?
Princeton, Texas

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PRINCETON — Forget pencils, pens and note-taking.

Some students in the Princeton Independent School District have a new tool for the classroom — and not everyone likes it.

Students in the Collin County community east of McKinney will now be able to use their cell phones to record what their teachers are saying.

This could be the first district in the state to allow classroom video recording.

Senior Nicholas Vandergriff, who is taking dual college and high school courses at Princeton High, says being able to video his instructor has helped him immensely.

"My college professor told us to do whatever helps," Vandergriff said. "So, I videotaped his lectures and before finals I pull it out and everybody who did got substantially higher grades."

But Larry Comer, representing the Association of Texas Professional Educators, voiced opposition to the policy at the Princeton ISD board meeting Monday night.

That's when the final draft of its "Bring Your Own Technology to School" handbook was presented. The BYOT guide details how students can videotape their teachers with their cell phones — as long as they notify them beforehand.

"What is going to happen is you are going to have students who are not engaged," Comer said. "These cell phone devices are simply going to be another distraction, and they can lead to disciplinary problems."

ATPE is also worried about legal problems for the district if students post any video online showing other students without written parental consent.

"The district cannot reasonably guarantee that this will only be used for educational purposes, because once the students have the recording, they can post it on YouTube or anywhere else," Comer said.

Princeton ISD Superintendent Phillip Anthony said students will be punished if they use their cell phone cameras for inappropriate reasons, but the sole intent of allowing smartphones in the classroom is to benefit students in 5th through 12th grades.

"The cell phone camera will be used as an educational tool that will benefit students who miss class," Anthony said. "For example, they can have a student to post the lecture online so they don't get behind.... or if there is a difficult math problem being worked out on the chalk board, students will have this visual reminder of how the teacher solved the equation. The intent is to benefit the students."

ATPE says its lawyers will look into the policy and will continue to try and dissuade Princeton ISD from encouraging this use of technology, because the group doesn't want any other Texas district to adopt the camera cell phone policy.

Superintendent Anthony maintains that it is perfectly legal to have students use their camera phones as a learning tool.

"The tool of videoing is not a negative or positive in and of itself; it's how it's utilized," he said.

The Texas Education Agency says it will be watching to see how this "experiment" works, adding that teachers may have less explaining to do in class if they know their lecture is being videotaped.

E-mail ddenmon@wfaa.com

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