Common to all of these contexts is the human-machine interaction. Our “digital assistants” are platforms for play and socializing; it makes sense, then, that we would approach those devices as game and chat machines, rather than as learning portals. The specific form of attention that we bring to this environment may certainly constrain the way in which the information is presented. Design matters and is contingent and dependent on the medium of choice. The blurring of play and pedagogy, for example, is rife in the lower grades. There is no denying that the infusion of a sense of play into the learning process is valuable, but some of the intersections of this philosophy with the actual mechanics of computer-game design give pause. My children play math games that combine the speed of an active video game with the materials of basic arithmetic—rewarding fast play and correctness—but why is it so important that they solve math problems as if they were driving a digital sports car at high speed? What about the integration of digital reward systems, so prevalent in and important to the business models of online gaming, into learning? These games prime and then exploit the user’s “compulsion loop,” an acknowledged behavioral modality linked to addictive behavior.
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Zero tolerance policies developed in the 1990s, in response to school shootings and general fears about crime. In 1994, the federal government passed the , which requires schools to expel any student who brings a gun to campus. Around the same time, the “broken windows” theory of law enforcement became popular. The idea was that cracking down on minor violations prevented serious crimes. Under similar thinking, schools started enacting disciplinary policies that went further than the federal law. The rules varied from school to school, but they commonly required suspending or expelling students for a wide range of conduct, such as:
Zero tolerance policies were intended to make schools safer places to learn. But researchers have not found that these policies have been effective at doing that. Meanwhile, suspension rates skyrocketed. According to statistics from the , one out of five middle- and high-school students will be suspended in any year. A showed that over half of that state’s students were suspended or expelled at least once during middle and high school. Very few of these serious disciplinary responses involved weapons, and most were for the kinds of behavior that used to result in a visit to the principal’s office and a stern warning.
We’re not all that far along in understanding how learning, teaching, and technology interact in the classroom. Institutions should certainly enable faculty to experiment with new technology, but should also approach all potential classroom intruders with a healthy dose of skepticism, and resist the impulse to always implement the new, trendy thing out of our fear of being left behind.
A zero tolerance policy requires school officials to hand down specific, consistent, and harsh punishment—usually suspension or expulsion—when students break certain rules. The punishment applies regardless of the circumstances, the reasons for the behavior (like self-defense), or the student’s history of discipline problems. That’s why some critics call these policies “one strike and you’re out.”
If your child is facing the possibility of being suspended from school for relatively minor misconduct, you may ask: How can this be? Chances are, it’s because the school district has a “zero tolerance” policy.
Define and analyze zero tolerance. Clearly state your position on zero tolerance and provide documentation/evidence to justify your position. Response must be between 450 – 550 words.
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I banned laptops in the classroom after it became common practice to carry them to school. When I created my “electronic etiquette policy” (as I call it in my syllabus), I was acting on a gut feeling based on personal experience. I’d always figured that, for the kinds of computer-science and math classes that I generally teach, which can have a significant theoretical component, any advantage that might be gained by having a machine at the ready, or available for the primary goal of taking notes, was negligible at best. We still haven’t made it easy to type notation-laden sentences, so the potential benefits were low. Meanwhile, the temptation for distraction was high. I know that I have a hard time staying on task when the option to check out at any momentary lull is available; I assumed that this must be true for my students, as well.
More and more educators have concluded that zero tolerance doesn’t work. But what are they doing instead? From , to , many school districts have instituted more flexible practices like “,” which focus on repairing harm, restoring relationships, and helping students become accountable for their actions.
A colleague of mine in the department of computer science at Dartmouth recently sent an e-mail to all of us on the faculty. The subject line read: “Ban computers in the classroom?” The note that followed was one sentence long: “I finally saw the light today and propose we ban the use of laptops in class.”
If school officials are applying a zero tolerance policy to something your child has done, you can do several things to stay involved. The most important is to learn about your child’s rights at every stage of the discipline process, including rights under the constitution and under federal law for students with disabilities. (For more information, see our articles on and .)
Supporters of zero tolerance policies maintain that the black and white dichotomy is required in order to promote a safe educational environment. The inflexibility of the rules is designed as a form of , since those who may attempt to break the rules are supposedly well-informed regarding the consequences.