Last week, I joined fans of public radio’s This American Life, in shelling out twenty bucks to go to the movie theater for a live taping of the program. Host Ira Glass drew laughs when he talked about the many theater managers nervous that we was encouraging viewers to take out their cell phones during the show. While he was going for laughs, he was dead serious about letting folks fill the theater rooms with screen glow. Dozens of audience members in hundreds of theaters across two continents simultaneously pulled out their smart phones and fired up the app that had been created specifically for this show. Glass introduced the band OK Go, known more for their groundbreaking music videos than pop melodies. The gimmick-geared musicians did not disappoint. The easiest way I can describe the experience: the band played music and with the app the audience played Guitar Hero to accompany them. I think the consensus was that it was pretty cool stuff.
At the end of the song, folks put their phones away and the show, as they say, went on.
Cell phones have become Enemy #1 in subways, movie theaters and pretty much every public space. OK Go and This American Life provide an excellent example of how mobile technology can be mobilized for positive disruption. They succeed in showing that the negative disruptions are a product of the users, not the phones.
This is a good lesson for schools and educators to note. In edu-speak, controlling the impact of cell phones is a classroom management issue, not a cell phone issue. This does not necessarily mean educators need to be incorporating mobile into their lessons (though many readers of this blog probably do); rather, that we are at least embedding into our lessons the idea of responsible cell phone citizenship. Modeling the positive disruptions a la Ira Glass is one of many ways of fostering this important learning.