Encouraging Camera Phone Use In Schools
By Mike Masnick, Thu Aug 05 23:15:00 GMT 2004

After all those news stories about school districts banning camera phones, here's one suggesting a local district encourage the use of camera phones.

It's no secret that camera phones can be used for both good and bad reasons. Over the last year it's become quite a common occurrence to find out about a school, business or government trying to ban camera phones after hearing about all the bad things they could possibly do, without stopping to realize there are already plenty of other ways those same "bad" things can be done.

This type of overreaction to cameras has been happening for well over a century, so it's not likely to go away any time soon. However, it appears that a few people are starting to realize that banning the technology is not the way to go. PicturePhoning.com points to an editorial in a local paper in Florida where the school district is considering a ban on mobile phones. It's one of only a few editorials around these days that takes a step back and realizes the bigger picture, and notes that instead of banning camera phone use in schools, people should be encouraging camera phone use in schools.

If the point of school is to educate the students and prepare them for the world after they get out of school, does it make sense to hide away the technology just because there's a chance it could be misused? In the editorial, Jac Wilder VerSteeg writes, "Students might as well learn to deal with camera phones on campus, because they certainly will have to deal with them in real life."

On top of that there are many beneficial reasons to use camera phones. Most importantly, they give the students another way to communicate with their parents. However, they also let the students snap pictures of intruders or someone committing a crime. There have been stories lately about camera phones being used to prevent kidnappings and stop other crimes before they could be completed. Furthermore, camera phones have the potential to be beneficial in the learning environment. While not many teachers have incorporated camera phones into the curriculum, it's not hard to come up with educational exercises that could include taking pictures and posting them to a website.

As for all of the bad things a camera phone allows, the editorial puts these into the proper perspective. There are plenty of ways to cheat. There are plenty of ways to do bad things in schools. The camera phone isn't even the most effective way to do many of the things that are being described as a threat. Taking a picture of a test and sending it to someone else should be difficult to do if a teacher is paying attention, and not all that useful in most cases.

Most of the "bad" actions that people are afraid of are already banned by school policy. Banning the camera phone itself doesn't change that. Simply enforcing the existing rules, and training teachers to recognize how camera phones might be misused makes a lot more sense. It's nice to see some parents coming to that conclusion in school districts where bans are being considered, though it may take years before these types of bans go away.