Bill Introduced In Pennsylvania To Ban All Portable Gadgets In School

from the seems-a-bit-extreme,-right? dept

We’ve seen various schools or school teachers/administrators try to ban bringing mobile devices into schools, and the whole concept seems backwards. It’s perfectly reasonable to have rules within the classroom where students are told not to use the phones during class time, but a full ban makes little sense. In fact, many parents have protested such rules, as they feel safer when their kids have mobile phones. However, it looks like some politicians in Pennsylvania are going even further. Dan Callahan, a 6th grade teacher in Pennsylvania wrote in to let us know that a state legislator has introduced legislation for a blanket ban on students having portable electronic devices in schools:

The possession by students of telephone paging devices, commonly referred to as beepers, cellular telephones and portable electronic devices that record or play audio or video material shall be prohibited on school grounds, at school sponsored activities and on buses or other vehicles provided by the school district.

Callahan points out how ridiculous this is, referring to it as the Luddite Bill (though, in fairness, it would just be one of many such bills). He notes that his school does already have a ban on phones (which he’s helped enforce), but notes that there should be flexibility — especially for the school to decide. He also notes that mobile devices may present a great learning opportunity for smart teachers who learn to make use of them:

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought this a big deal, but to take away the option of teachers allowing cell phone use in their classrooms to me now seems ludicrous. Right now we stand on the brink of a major shift in computing resources available to students in their pockets, with phones as powerful as a computer from only a few years ago…. Honestly, if you think we really want you to take away more teaching options from us, you’re sorely mistaken.

And this isn’t far out thinking either. The NY Times this weekend ran an article about the idea of smart phones as teaching tools, creating the ability to bring impressive computing power into the classroom at a much lower price point. But, apparently, some politicians in Pennsylvania would rather keep such things out of the classroom entirely.

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Comments on “Bill Introduced In Pennsylvania To Ban All Portable Gadgets In School”

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Ben Doom (profile) says:

Re: (Raises hand sheepishly...)

Actually, that was exactly what I was thinking about. My last glucometer beeped when it was finished, and an associate’s pump plays a little song when delivering a bolus.

I went to high school with a kid who was functionally blind. Is he allowed to have a talking watch?

It seems to me there are too many cases where such devices are necessary to put a blanket ban on them.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: (Raises hand sheepishly...)

I come from a PA public school, and those devices you speak of were already banned. The school nurse had to keep all of the medical electronics and you had to go down there to do anything. I don’t know about a talking watch, I didn’t have any blink kids in my classes.

Cell phones, pagers, game systems were already banned and were confiscated when found. Most teachers didn’t care about someone having a cell phone as long as it didn’t go off. Once it did, the device was confiscated, sent to the principles office and would not be released unless to a parent.

PA Parent says:

Re: Re: Re: (Raises hand sheepishly...)

I’m a parent in PA, out in the ‘burbs of Philly. Our 7th grader has a cell phone and has had it for 2 years now – so that WE can get a hold of HIM (or vice-versa) in an emergency! If the school confiscated it from him, I would be seriously ticked.

In the two years that he’s carried it, there have been 3 bomb-threats in our district, not to mention complete communication break-down (twice – no internet to school, no phone service, all schools in the district). The SD is really good about keeping parents notified, and we are very clear with our son that this is NOT a toy and that if he mis-uses the priveledge we will be removing it from him. HOWEVER, the first time there was a bomb threat, I sent him a text (not knowing if he would be able to receive it) and he told me later he went to the bathroom to read it, which made him feel safe.

NOTHING can replace that. Our schools aren’t the completely safe havens they were (or were beleived to be) once upon a time. I want my children to know they are empowered to help themselves in a crisis.

frustrated says:

Re: Re: (Raises hand sheepishly...)

Why not? You have to have a dr’s note for an emergency asthma inhaler or an epi-pen (alergic reactions).

And no, the prescription FROM THE DR isn’t enuff. Gotta have a separate note saying “yes, this is medically necessary”. *sigh*

And we wonder why our health care is so flippin’ expensive…

Anonymous Coward says:

Out of touch, with evidence

. . . telephone paging devices, commonly referred to as beepers . . .

If that doesn’t show how out-of-touch politicians are, nothing does. Seriously, how many people still use pagers? Has this legislator been living in a cave for the last two decades?

This is a typical politician reaction — if the concept is too hard to grasp, ban it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. Fist thing I thought when I read: “portable electronic devices that record”

This is so the teachers and administrators can drone on about their far left liberal agenda and espouse how 0bama is our savior blah blah blah… With all the various recordings both video and audio that have come out, of english or math/science teachers doing this and the angry backlash of the parents, who could blame them right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’re a bozo if you think all teachers and administrators are liberals. But based on this comment, you’re a friggin’ bozo anyway. Fucktards like you try to turn every conversation into some sort of liberal-bashing event. GET OVER IT AND MOVE ON TO SOMETHING ELSE. Or are you planning to whine for the next four years?

brandonbradley says:


Accessibility equipment and devices used for medical purposes would likely be given a exemption to this (they would have to be under the Americans with Disabilities Act – ADA). The teaching resource being lost with a law like this though is amazing. I’ve developed elearning apps for mobile devices, and while historically there have been a number of large hurdles in using these sorts of devices (such as the screen size and computing power) these devices are now getting to the point where the hurdles are much less especially in the area of connectivity.

Add to that the one thing that everyone seems to gloss over, what about Freedom of Speech? Just because we are talking about kids here does not mean that the Constitution doesn’t apply.

Is there really any realistic reason that a kid should not be able to have a phone on the school bus? I can see an instructor saying that he doesn’t want people using their phones to call or take calls (thus being disruptive) during class. But video? No. That should be allowed unless there is some reason that can be given to justify this to parents.

Anonymous Coward says:

So there won't be any math people from that state...

Sure, you can go back to using slide rules if you want. But the fact is, fancy calculators are the future baby. You can either sit idly by while those with them learn cool things like Calculus and Physics, or you can bring your “smarty gadget” the also has games on it to help you learn.

So what will it be? Know what you can calculate in your head, or at least on your fingers, or learn to do high level calc on a friday night on the corner with your buddies. You decide!

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Early Adopter here

I had a PDA (palm and a color HP IPAQ to be exact) in the early days of the devices in highschool. I’ve vary honestly asked teachers, “How do you test students when everyone in the world has google in there pocket”

The only responce that teachers like to give is, “you might not have it.” Or “What if all computers stoped working”. To be totly honest, the amount of computing power in my pocket is skyrocketing.

So my question to schools is, how will you adapt to all kids having google in there pocket? Banning google is really not a good way to teach students about the real world.

giafly says:

Please RTFA

It doesn’t include all portable gadgets, only beepers and cellphones, and there’s a medical exemption…

“The prohibition against beepers and cellular telephones contained in subsection (a) shall not apply in the following cases, provided that the school authorities approve of the presence of the beeper or cellular telephone in each case:

(1) A student who is a member of a volunteer fire company, ambulance or rescue squad.

(2) A student who has a need for a beeper or cellular telephone due to the medical condition of an immediate family member.”

Josh says:

Re: Please RTFA


It doesn’t include all portable gadgets, but it’s more than just beepers and cellphones.
“portable electronic devices that record or play audio or video material” are prohibited.
That could include cell phones, cameras, ebook readers, laptops, ipods, etc.
There’s even code to make TI calculators play music or video – are they also prohibited?

Other commenters mentioned that they’ve used medical devices which play songs/sounds as notifications, which is arguably playing ‘audio material’.
The medical exemption only applies to phones/pagers due to a family member’s medical condition, so medical devices used by the student would not be exempted by (2).

Anonymous Coward says:

Bass-ackwards state

I’ve come to expect such brilliant legislation from the state where a school district tried to have “Intelligent Design” taught in a science class, instead of philosophy and/or religion, where it belongs.

Recently, someone I know (from PA) found he couldn’t buy certain wines from out of state, because the winery can’t ship wine to PA, due to their archaic “blue laws”.

You’d never guess that the midwest starts so far East…

harls says:

off on a tangent, but...

Is it me or does it seem that too much effort is put towards punishing the kids in school? The point is, I view many private schools to have much higher academic standards and the kids their seem to have much higher school pride. However, I see public schools as being much more institutionalized and focused more on keeping the students “in line” just long enough for them to graduate or flunk out. Granted, this is my own opinion, but if you talked to some private/public high school students I don’t think it would be too far off.

Jackson Brown says:


Advances in technology and our dependence on them are contributing factors to the decline of our nation. In addition to the amount of environmental damage that these “gadgets” have, we also have a society that could not perform basic functions if their device were ever to fail. I went to school back in the 70’s and 80’s and was not even allowed to bring a simple calculator to school. I conducted a survey with 100 High School seniors. only 6% of them knew the actual number that PI represents.
If technology ever fails to a point where these such devices will not function or global communication is reduced back to land lines without internet, when we look around us we will see a bunch of fumbling idiots with their thumbs in there A@*$%

Paul says:

Yeah, like if we don't teach kids hi-tech stuff, they'll never learn it...

Somebody somewhere phrased this way better than me, but the problem with education today is not that children aren’t learning computing early enough.

Typical knee-jerk responses all round here, but there is a fundamental failing here and more hi-tech stuff has not proved to be the answer so far.

Close, but not enough says:

This would be great if they changed it to say “in the classroom” instead of anywhere on school property. There is nothing wrong with a student having a device like this in their locker or on the bus – just not in the classroom where they are supposed to be learning.

My son has a cell phone that he takes to school with him – that has to stay in the locker or it gets confiscated. All of the students know not to bring anything to the classroom and things work very nicely.

Steve says:

Re: Close, but not enought

The point is that some of these devices are finding a usefulness in the classroom. Cellphones can be used to take polls, to record data, to take photographs of labs and activities. Texting is THE main form of communication among HS students. If it can be used in the classroom to enhance instruction and engage the students then it won’t do much good in a locker.

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

“Advances in technology and our dependence on them are contributing factors to the decline of our nation. In addition to the amount of environmental damage that these “gadgets” have, “

Sir, As a student, that is the most ass backwords thing I ever heard, Just because I dont know how to smith a hammer dosent mean I cant use the hammer. This applys to most every subject with building blocks. If the worst thing possable happen (say someone drops EMPs all over the world, or a super solar flare) then we are in a far more world of hurt then if a highschool student (or an entire highschool) dosent know what Pi is.

If anything responcable use needs to be taught, we already know total Ban of gadgets does not work why not actully teach kids the correct use, and the thory behind how each thing works.

Michael (profile) says:

Are Children Convicts?

It was already starting to get bad when I graduated high-school in 2001, but this is just getting ridiculous.

Locking kids up in rooms with a droning instructor who doesn’t engage the class, who’s forced to repeat the same material from the beginning of the book that everyone’s already received before because there’s no national structured curriculum or development plan is silly. The students who are smart will do other work or read ahead in the book to the more interesting stuff. Those who don’t want to be there at all and haven’t understood the point about history repeating it’s self if it’s not learned will try to amuse themselves in other ways.

So don’t ban the devices or punish the students, fix the curriculum to engage the students.

What I would have loved were projects. Mix it all together. Integrate history, math, science, everything in to a unified structure. Teach the students about what it used to be like before history was written, before there was writing.

Abolish grades entirely, they no longer matter. Instead have conceptual levels. A series of puzzles or a problem that must be solved in order to graduate to the next era for that type of knowledge.

Obviously the program should focus on the parts that were more or less accurate and mention others. Ideally there should be contrast between rational and provable methods and the ideas that were not correct for some reason. In that way the students would be learning why the other ideas don’t work.

This type of program would be drastically different than the traditional disconnected, disjointed rote memorization schools use. I believe that any child that wanted to learn, any child that was interested in having fun, would embrace this system. The system would also promote them dynamically, based on what they know and how well they perform.

In higher levels, as we neared more modern times, the problems would get more difficult. They might not even have solutions. In this area the students would be working as part of crowd-sourcing the problem. College would be even harder yet as it would involve official public domain RnD as well as problem research and backing for government research, and advice on directions the country should take.

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