It's Elementary!

by Jamie Forrest

Avoiding temptation November 27, 2010

Filed under: eci831,New Learning,Opinion pieces — Jamie @ 1:33 pm

Yesterday I had quite the conversation with a teacher friend. It started out about an incident that had happened with a student that day and led to a discussion about why teachers might be resistant to the idea of giving students freedom to learn and explore on the internet, even with instruction on appropriate behaviour.

The teacher in question had outdoor supervision and left her cell phone in her classroom. The student entered the classroom without permission, took her cell phone and phoned the last 5 numbers. At each number, he either left messages full of expletives or when someone answered, proceeded to call them a bunch of names, including expletives. One number was a parent from her classroom, one was her husband. Both immediately called the school to let the teacher know that something had happened. When the student had been found out, this teacher said that the student’s response was “I knew it was wrong. It was just too tempting, I couldn’t help it!”

Photo taken by Shahram Sharif at


And there, my friends, is the crux of the problem with the internet and web 2.0. This is why many teachers and administrators are scared. For some reason, many of our students know how to behave appropriately, they just don’t. We got to talking about what we can do to change this attitude in kids. How do we get past this with our students? I think that for most students, teaching and modeling appropriate behaviours will be enough. However, what can we do with those students who find the inappropriate use of the tools “just too tempting”? In this day, it would only take one student doing something questionable to raise the pitchforks and torches against the tools themselves without understanding that it is one child making a bad decision and not the tool that is the problem. For those of you who use these tools, particularly in elementary school (grades K-8) have you had problems like this? What have you done to prepare the students against these problems? How have you (and your school) reacted if something came up? I’d be interested about what both teachers and administrators think. Although, suggestions from anyone are welcome! Thank you.


8 Responses to “Avoiding temptation”

  1. @mmeveilleux Says:

    Hi Jamie,

    This story makes me wonder how many other situations exist where students or adults could act irresponsibly:
    – playing on the playground
    – crossing a street
    – students MC:ing at an assembly
    – allowing children to search for anything online
    – allowing children to talk on the phone, ever
    – allowing children to talk to each other, ever

    Children must learn to self-regulate. They will make mistakes as do adults. We have to learn and move on.

    I think we have to find a balance between supervision and trust. If something is an on-going problem, that must be addressed. I have never heard of another child doing this with a cell phone so I don’t think that an over-reaction to a single incident is warranted. There should be consequences for that child but not for the broader student population.

    The “I couldn’t help myself” or “It was too tempting” line suggests that this child needs to take responsibility for his actions. It is unacceptable to let him think it wasn’t his choice or that his impulsive personality gives him special license to behave in this way. He needs to rethink his identity in a way that doesn’t allow him to give up responsibility for these behaviours. Who is reinforcing this message for him that he is just impulsive and he cannot control his behaviour? That is an irresponsible message.

    The problem here is not the technology but his words and choices.

    An interesting case-study.

    • Jamie Says:

      I absolutely agree Ingrid. However, I find that it is with teachers that don’t fully understand Web 2.0 and social media that use these case-study’s as excuses to stop using new technologies. I suppose I should have added that question to my post as well… How do we explain to the people who ARE over-reacting that it IS just a single case? Thank you for your response.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ingrid Veilleux, Jamie F. Jamie F said: New #eci831 blog post: Avoiding temptation: Any suggestions and advice would be appreciated… #edchat #elemchat […]

  3. Denise Stanger Says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I am sure that we all know there have always been temptations and students who act on those temptations. If a student is inclined towards acting out, they will regardless of how. Technology does offer a whole new way to do this. But technology of course did not create the issue. In the early 50’s my mom’s cousin attached lamb’s tails to the blackboard of his one room schoolhouse and left them to be discovered the next day. I am convinced that the cell phone child would have found another temptation somewhere along the way whether it was attached to technology or not.
    No simple solution to this and perhaps no solution at all. Kids act out. Life is more complicated now. Perhaps technology is a part of that, I’m not sure. But I think we do what we have always done, talk to them and give them the opportunity to discuss and explore ways to act responsibly, with technology and otherwise.


  4. Lisa M Lane Says:

    I can see the temptation to use the phone, but to call and say nasty things? That’s not temptation; it’s response to modeling.

    Not the modeling of teachers, but of a society that thinks reality TV is cool because people get humiliated, and elevates bad behavior of all kinds to something used in righteousness against those who get in your way. It’s the acceptance of rude drivers, horrific violence, and the outpouring of inappropriate emotions in public.

    Ingrid is right, of course, about taking responsibility. It’s just a good idea to recognize that the society itself only partly supports him in doing so.

  5. Ian H. Says:

    While the effects of misbehaving using technology tend to ripple wider, I think the lack of self-control is the issue, not the device used to carry it out. Really, is this much different than noogies or pantsing kids in grade school? Kids need to learn appropriate boundaries in all things, and teachers must, as in the offline world, give clear guidance for online activities as well.

  6. Jen Says:

    Great post Jaime. I strongly believe that the medium is not to blame. No matter what he used it is his behaviour that is the issue. It is about teaching kids etiquette and how to be respectful.

  7. byrnesa Says:

    Hi Jamie,

    I have never had anything like that happen at my school but I can understand the frustrations. A friend of mine who is an administrator took a child’s cell phone one afternoon after the child answered a call during class. In a moment of forgetfullness, he forgot to ask the child to turn the cell phone off. The school had made a policy that when a phone was confiscated, they would not open or look at the phone. The student took advantage of this and had her friends call the cell phone at one minute intervals for the afternoon. When she was paged to come and turn the phone off, she ignored the page. In this case, I would not blame the device. The students had helped make the cell phone policy and she knew answering it in class was a no-no, yet she did it anyway.

    This reminds me of a quote I found on a blog called Don’t Blame the Technology. (You can find the link on my blog about cyberbullying) The author of this blog talks about all of the positive things that the technological tools are used for and that we should focus on that, rather than blame the tools. The author says,

    As responsible adults, we are well aware of the tragic accidents that can happen if young children are left unsupervised around such a dangerous playground. However, we don’t try and ban swimming pools or tell our children they can never go near water. Instead, we teach them how to swim, staying close until we are sure they will be safe on their own.

    Thanks for your post Jamie!

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