ERIC Identifier: ED377829
Publication Date: 1994-12-00
Author: Lucas, Larry W.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Say "YES" to Telephone Lines in the Classroom. ERIC Digest.
This Digest discusses the results of a survey on the installation and use of
telephone lines in K-12 classrooms. A summary of the observations, comments, and
opinions from teachers and educational administrators from around the world as
well as references to conference presentations and printed articles about the
subject are included.
In June 1994, a Texas Center for Educational
Technology (TCET) "customer" (a teacher in a Texas public school) requested
information/documentation that could persuade the school district
administration, the school board, and the community that telephones in K-12
classrooms are necessary. Since TCET did not have information on file concerning
the use of telephones and telephone lines in education, the request for
information was forwarded to educators worldwide via the Internet. Several
educational listservs and conference groups on the Internet posted a request for
comments, observations, and opinions from educators having experience with
telephones in the classroom. TCET received responses to the information request
from large and small schools (public and private). Geographically, responses
came from school districts all across the United States and from Australia.
Although reports included a few cautions and negative observations, the vast
majority of comments were resoundingly positive favoring the installation of
telephone lines in classrooms.
Respondents agreed overwhelmingly that in an age of information and
communications, it is essential to equip K-12 classrooms with modern
communications tools including telephone lines. Students and teachers need to
learn how to use communications tools to gather information to support learning
in various curricula.
The survey indicated that telephone lines are used in classrooms in
predominately two ways: voice communications and computer communications
(telecommunications and telecomputing). A couple of respondents mentioned the
use of phone lines for the exchange of FAX messages.
As expected, most respondents
indicated that improved parent/teacher communication was the primary advantage
of voice communications. Many also reported improved intra-campus and
inter-campus communications. Telephone installations improved office to
classroom communications in many schools. With classroom telephones it was not
necessary to disrupt the whole class with an announcement over the PA for a
student to come to the office. The office can contact the teacher by phone and
the teacher can quietly tell the student to go to the office.
Ken Phillips, Principal at Taylor Elementary School in Cleveland, Tennessee,
installed a key electronic telephone system as a flexible, versatile solution to
the need for an intercom system. Three telephone lines come into the school. The
phone rings only in the office. If a call for a teacher is determined to be
important enough, it is transferred to the teacher's phone. The system can also
be an intercom and they can even pipe background music into the classrooms.
Many respondents found that a telephone in the classroom helped considerably
with discipline management. John Eye, Media Generalist/Computer Coordinator in
Round Lake, Minnesota, stated "I observed a teacher walk a disruptive student
right up to the phone to call home, explain the situation, and discuss a
solution." Some school districts have also reported a considerable decrease in
absenteeism because of phones in the classroom.
According to Nancy Martin, Principal at Monroe High School in Monroe,
Washington, one of the pluses of phones in the classroom is "...more immediate
access from the classroom to the main office in cases of emergency (medically
fragile students or accidents for example)." In a related scenario, some schools
include phones as a key part of security.
Many reported an increase in teachers' morale (teachers are finally being
treated like the professionals that they are). Apparent increases in efficiency
and productivity have accompanied increases in morale. Quoting Leeanne Needham,
Technology Specialist with the Issaquah School District in Issaquah, Washington,
"What a difference the phone made! We were much more productive as educators.
The most beneficial part was the improvement of teacher/parent communication."
In an article in "Education Technology News" (February 16, 1993), Lockwood
Elementary School, Montana, reported that having telephones in the classrooms
improved student morale. When students complete outstanding work, they are
encouraged to call their parents and relate the good news.
In some high schools with classroom telephone installations, the teachers put
information in their voice mail about homework and assignments for the week,
easily retrievable from a student's home. This has resulted in considerable
improvement in communication between teachers, students, and parents.
Announcements for sports and other events are sometimes posted on voice mail.
At some schools, students use classroom telephones to obtain local research
information and to contact content experts. These activities enhance learning
and add current knowledge to many curricula.
In the Reader Exchange column of "Learning94" (August, 1994), Beverly
Blackman Dornburg of Bill Brown Elementary in Spring Branch, Texas, reported
that she used a speaker phone in her classroom to let her students communicate
with their pen pals in Australia! Similarly, Lockwood Elementary School teachers
had their students talk long distance with President Clinton during the
presidential campaign to get, first hand, his position on various issues.
Students also talked with an executive of Taco Bell to obtain information about
the corporation's new automatic taco-making machine.
Gellerman (1994) discusses many applications of various telephone systems
that are now in K-12 schools. Major uses include: (1) making important school
information available to the community, (2) allowing connection to electronic
grade book programs, (3) ability to check on a student's progress (homework
hotlines), (4) obtaining test schedules via voice mail, and (5) checking
attendance records. A few high schools have installed telephone registration
similar to that used at many universities.
Potential negatives of having telephones in classrooms include abuse of the
communications tool by teachers and/or students. Proper use of the system needs
to be part of orientation for students and teachers. A phone ringing in the
classroom can be disruptive, but probably no more so than the teacher from
across the hall coming in to borrow something. Most of the schools are
preventing this by answering all calls in the office. Calls are then forwarded
to the classroom only when the teacher has a free period or if the call is an
Computer communications via
telephone lines (telecomputing) allow teachers and students access to
information for conducting research in almost any area of the K-12 curriculum.
It opens connections to content experts from around the world via E-mail, E-mail
lists, and newsgroups and allows for the exchange of document and data files.
Survey respondents reported that the best way to connect classrooms to the
Internet (and other information highways) is to establish a local area network
(LAN), a computer network throughout the school. Once the LAN is in place, equip
it with a communications server that allows any computer on the network to
connect to the outside world.
The negatives of telecomputing are few but include the fact that the
telephone line is not the best connection (access) to the Internet, although it
is the most economical. The worst negative might be the "garbage" that is
accessible through the Internet. Some means will need to be established to
control what information students access. Flanders (1994) discusses various
aspects of this issue.
Yet another mode of communication via telephone lines
is the FAX machine. In his response to TCET's request for information, Gary
Bowers of Region X Education Service Center in Richardson, Texas, reported that
Lawrence Livermore Laboratories in Livermore, California, faxes answers to
questions from middle school students in the Livermore area.
Gellerman (1994) also reports that some schools will now FAX course
information, enrollment forms, and student grade reports.
PRIMARY DETERRENT TO INSTALLATION
For many school
districts, the principal hindrance to installing telephones or telephone outlets
in classrooms appears to be the cost. Many districts have found ways to minimize
the expense, however. Several schools have four or five lines coming into the
school that are connected to a key telephone system or a PBX system from which
lines are run to each classroom. Other schools have found different ways to
split one line into four or five to similarly cut down the cost of phone bills
yet provide the classrooms with this essential communications tool.
In a presentation at TelEd '93, Fergus (1993) revealed one sizable school
district's solution for putting phone lines in classrooms. The Des Moines Public
School District chose to install its own telephone system to serve the entire
district. Although it was a large financial investment in the beginning, money
was saved in the long run, and there is a telephone in each classroom. The
district phone system was installed in 1985. They are currently wiring eight
schools per year and should have all sixty schools in the district wired and
telephones in all classrooms by the end of 1995.
Fergus, T. (1993, November). Fewer dollars vs.
more service. "Proceedings of TelEd 1993" (pp. 307-309). Eugene, OR:
International Society for Technology in Education. (ED 366 334)
Flanders, B. (1994). A delicate balance. "School Library Journal", 40(10),
Gellerman, E. (1994). Telephone technology increases communication across the
board. "T.H.E. Journal", 21(10), 14-20.
Reader Exchange Column. (1994, August). "Learning94", 23(1), 6.
Staff. (1993, February 16). Phones help encourage parent involvement in
Montana school. "Education Technology News", p. 5.