Are cell phones safe or cancer causing?
This is a Tug of War activity to spur the conversation about the controversy of the potential danger of cell phone usage. Prior to this, the students would have learned about the structure and energy of electromagnetic radiation.
The Set Up
In this step you will start the tug of war idea by drawing a rope on the board with the center line in place. The students will identify the opposing viewpoints and place them at the ends of the rope.
There is a debate swirling all around us about the effects of the radio and microwaves that emminate from cell phones. Do they cause cancer? Is there such a thing as electromagnetic sensitivity? As a class, you need to decide what are the two opposing viewpoints on this dilemma, and label the two ends of the rope with those viewpoints
Choose which side of the debate you tend to fall on.
The students will need to have access to research materials.
Research the controversery about cell phones and risk of cancer and identify what are the "tugs" (ideas or facts) that pull people toward one opinion or the other. Each student should come up with at least two. Write your results on a sticky note and place them randomly on the white board. When you have finished, read the other sticky notes and then find another tug to add to the list.
Now the students decide on which side of the rope these arguments fall, and place them accordingly. At this juncture, the students will be encouraged to evaluate each tug for how compelling or important that idea is.
By class concensus, place the sticky notes on the side of the rope that is supported by that tug (that fact). The stronger the argumnet, the farther toward the end of the rope it should go.
The Real Questioning Begins
Now that the tugs are in place, the real questioning begins. I like the “what if” and “why” questioning here. (For example, what if the rate of cancer from radio waves is found to be 1 in 500. Would you still use your phone like you do now? or Why might someone choose to ignore the evidence that cell technology is completely safe?). But also, what new questions have been raised in your mind through this discussion?
Before the class discussion begins, each student is to come up with at least two questions you have identified after considering the facts and arguments that have been presented. Your questions should be in the format of "What if ..." or Why ..." (For example, what if the rate of cancer from radio waves is found to be 1 in 500. Would you still use your phone like you do now? or Why might someone choose to ignore the evidence that cell technology is completely safe?).
Discuss your questions, and respond to qissues being raised by others.
After the discussion is over, reflect on what was said, and write down at least one new question that has been raised.
The students should be able to draw some conclusions about this issue.
Answer the following questions:
How was your thinking shaped by this “viewpoint tug of war”?
Did you change sides of the rope?
Did you change the intensity of your feelings about it?
Would you be comfortable engaging someone outside of class in a discussion about this?