Sunday, July 8, 2012

5 Reasons to Allow Students to Use Cell Phones in Class

Guest post by  Cross posted at A Teacher's Life for Me


Flickr/William Hook
This morning, a discussion between members of my PLN on Plurk got me thinking about rules in school that ban cell phone usage.  In today's post I'm going to explore five reasons why banning cell phones in schools is bad policy and detrimental for our students.
  1. If we are preparing our students for life after school, we should allow them to use the tools they will be using when they get there.  How many jobs can you think of right now where a smart phone is not beneficial?  Mechanics order parts on their phone, engineers view blueprints, doctors calculate dosages, and grocers check inventory.  The list is endless.  By the time our students enter their professions the need to utilize mobile technology will be even stronger.  Not preparing our students for that world is negligent. 
  2. In a time when schools are facing tightening budgets, using technology that is readily available is logical.  How many schools point to a lack of funds as a reason they are not doing more with technology?  We can go a long way towards solving that problem by using technology that is available for free and probably in a majority of HS students' pockets.
  3. Mobile devices are great for teaching 21st century skills.  If you want kids to learn to collaborate, what better tool can you use than a phone?  Videoconferencing with people all over the world becomes easy.  One of the main arguments against student phone use is that kids might cheat.  My response is that tests that are so lacking in rigor that students can look up answers on a phone or get them from another student are lousy and outdated in a world where information is free and easy.  We need to get used to the fact that kids don't need to know "stuff" nearly as much as they need to learn to use that "stuff."  Tests of recall don't prepare our students for the world ahead.  Kids know this - it's why they think school is irrelevant.  Kids working together to find solutions to problems (collaboration) should be encouraged, not labeled as "cheating."  Policies that ban cell phones because students might text each other are short-sighted.  As Kevin Honeycutt is fond of saying, "Students used to pass notes on paper.  We never banned paper."
  4. Double standards are not OK.  I know of several districts where administrators come into classrooms with iPhones and/or iPads to take notes on teacher observations.  Yet, in these same classrooms students are not allowed to use mobile devices.  The message this sends to students is totally unacceptable.  These are great tools.  Kids know it.  Let them use them.
  5. We need to teach kids responsible ways to use technology.  Keeping them "safe" by refusing to expose them to technology is irresponsible on our part.  Students are using cell phones whether we ban them in school or not.  They are communicating, sending pictures to each other, using social media and social networking, and consuming information.  We need to be teaching them how to do this while protecting themselves from both mistakes they might make that will follow them for decades and others who want to do them harm.  The dangers and pitfalls of using mobile devices aren't going away.  Isn't it our responsibility to teach our students to be safe?
For those who have read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies, a member of my PLN showed drew a great parallel between events in those stories and this debate with the following quote:
"Children, put away your wands. You won't be needing them." - Delores Umbridge
Now it's your turn.  What are the policies on cell phones in your school?  Do you think phones should be used by students in schools?  Are there ways to ensure that phones are not misused in schools if we allow them?  

Check out Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning for more ideas about thinking outside the ban to harness the power of student-owned devices for learning including policies, contracts, management ideas, and research.

28 comments:

  1. As a student in a school that doesn't permit phone usage at any point in the schoolday (except under the "explicit direction" of a teacher), I have to agree with you. There is so much that can be done with the technology that's already available to us. Nearly everyone I know has a smartphone. If we could teach students how to properly use phones from an earlier age, they would be an irreplaceable learning tool.

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  2. As a IDT doctoral student and technology lover I can not endorse cell phone usage where I teach. With states relying on single test scores to fund their schools and to label a teacher a "good teacher" students are way too distracted. I would love to have tablets that would prevent the usual texting that would go on. From a classroom management standpoint, it would be impossible to keep students on task if allowed free use of cell phones. I could see special cases or times in which it would work but not free use all of the time.

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    1. I teach young adults, not children, but I have the same issues with distraction, and texting in class. But I have to say, since I started giving cell-phone based tasks in class, I have never seen such focus and "staying on topic". In my experience, when I give the students a new tool and a task that they can access with their phones, put them in groups, and wait for results to roll in...it is really impressive! I think they just need the right task! I admit, I don't know about kids....but for my 18-22 yr-olds...wow! Huge leap in productivity!

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    2. I think it's bad to use cell phone on the class they might use the phone to check some site that is even dangerous for adult around the age of 17 lower or they might be texting messages in the class while the teacher explaining what they will when they will do their exams.

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  3. Allowing students to utilize their cell phones in the classroom could be a powerful tool along with a major distraction. As a Doctoral Student of Education, I would support the usage. But you must teach the expected behavior for usage. There are many lessons that can be utilized while also closing the digital gap for some students.

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  4. Just read an article separating the sexes for same sex classes because boys are too distracted by girls, and you want to add a bigger distraction than that? Cell phones have no place in the classroom! Computers, yes, but no phones. There is too much other stuff that can be accessed while using the "tools" that you are talking about.

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  5. Get into the 21st century and teach in new ways. Embrace mobile devices! Teach them responsible uses and time and place. My kids flip their phones when i don't want them using them. They are already using them in school.... Time to wake up and use the purposefully

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  6. I go to Missouri School of Journalism for my graduate studies. Most classes I take have students with their MacBooks open (that includes me). On occasions barring final presentations, nobody has an objection to computers being operated in class. Mobile phones have the tendency to attract scorns from instructors only when a student answers phone calls (that has happened, really).
    In a nutshell, schools have already adopted a mobile-friendly classroom approach. It's up to the students like me to respect the sanctity of classroom culture.

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  7. Look at the website called "K12 Cell Phone Projects" to see how educators are putting them to great use!! Thank you for writing about this. I have my students use them every day in class. I never have a problem with my students losing focus because our classroom is run as a 21st Century Learning Community.

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  8. With technology and anything else, there is a time and place for everything. Cell phone use in the classroom should be monitored. Besides, texting can hardly be compared to note passing. Note passing took longer because it required stealth. An entire conversation can be carried on throughout a complete class period via texting. Additionally, paper note passing was often cut short and ended with the note being confiscated and thrown away. Most important of all is the dangers completely oblivious to a teacher in an school of students in more volatile areas. Students have used cell phone texting to orchestrate for attacks of violence. A simple classroom disagreement can result in a felony assault by the end of the school day, or class period. The bottom line with technology in schools is the teachers have to know there students, the school culture and the risks.

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  9. All of the mentioned "problems" by the comments are not a technology problem; it is a classroom management problem! If students can carry on an entire conversation via text, it sounds like the "lesson" isn't very interactive. What are you asking them to create that is incompatible with texting? Or are they sitting through another "talking head" lecture? Have you tried redirecting their texting to an interactive back channel for classroom discussion, questions, etc?

    Newsflash! Most cell phones are essentially computers. You agree to using computers but not cell phones? They are one in the same in many cases.
    In a nutshell, schools can attempt to ban cell phones all they want. The students are still going to bring them!

    I personally like reason #4. It is a double standard when admin and teachers have cell phones, tablets, etc to use and students don't (By the way, it is great that admin and teaches are are using them). Students are presented the opportunity to see people using technology in a professional manner. Do you really believe none of those students will use devices in their professional lives? Isn't it our job to prepare students for the world they will enter?

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  10. 1) not all my students can afford smartphones. Should I really put the poor students at a disadvantage? 2) if we start expecting students to have smartphones, isn't reasonable that they will ask the school to reimburse them? 3) half my students have iPods and half have androids and half have Blackberries 4) whenever I see a student using a cellphone in class he is either texting or Facebooking in his native language, watching a video or downloading music to everyone else's phones. Rare is the students who is looking something up or using an educational app. 5) I had a student copy a whole article from Wikipedia on an I class essay. His argument was that I never took the smartphone away, thus he didn't know it was wrong.

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  11. Excuse me as my chin has crashed to the floor. While I attempt to close my mouth, let me go through these points in order:

    1) Of course there are lots of tools that are beneficial in life. That doesn't mean they have a constant place in the classroom. Your own teacher probably taught you how to use a dictionary once upon a time. But it wasn't accessible at all times. Teaching how to use how a machine is a one-off lesson. When the machines change, the skill set changes. But teaching how to use your brain is a lesson for life.

    2) What is this technology fetish? Did people not learn well before, oh, 1980, when all the teacher had was chalk and a blackboard? Technology has a place in accompanying a lesson; it is not the lesson itself.

    3) Wrong. Your kids do need to "know stuff" as much as "how to use stuff". If you never teach them how to internalize "stuff", you leave them at the mercy of those (corporations, governments, etc.) that are the repositories of the "stuff". That is not how to create an independent thinker. Oh, and by the way, they used to call knowing stuff "knowledge". No, we didn't ban paper; we just banned communication between students at certain points because it interfered in the fair assessment of their abilities. There is a time and place for collaborative learning; there is also a time and place for individual effort.

    4) Um, double standards are OK. You see examples every day where double standards are acceptable. If administrators are using their tools in class, that is because it is their job to do so. But the student's job is not the same as the administrator's.

    5) I'm not sure that teaching safe machine usage is one of the teacher's primary responsibilities. How many of you teachers feel you are more aware of the ins and outs of technological devices than all off your students? I thought so. And even if you were knowledgeable, that doesn't mean you're going to be hammering home the lesson day after day. It's a brief aside, no more. Move on to something else.

    One of the forgotten skills in this age is the ability to focus and concentrate. It is a skill like any other and needs to be nurtured as such. Omnipresent use of technology, however, has the ability to ruin our powers of concentration. As a teacher myself, I am not a shill for Apple or Google or Facebook. I am simply there to help nurture that special space inside each and every student where mobile devices cannot reach and the internet doesn't go.

    My apologies for the drool on the floor ...

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  12. OK, I have several problems with this sort of post. Firstly it assumes that our students are "little adults" doing everything we ask. They are not! Mine certainly aren't. I work in a prestigious boys high school and teach predominantly 16 - 18 year olds. No matter how dynamic I am (and I think I am pretty dynamic) teenage boys very quickly get off task and go straight to their smartphone for a quick fix - they just can't help themselves.

    Secondly double standards are totally OK!! I am the adult in the room and I will do what I like. If I need to remove phones temporarily while using mine then too bad.

    I would love to observe anyone teaching well off adolescent boys (all with smartphones) and have them not check facebook, text messages throughout the lesson.

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  13. The first words of class should always be, "If you have a connectable device, please connect it". You have just resolved every question of fact that might arise. Who answered all of those questions before Google?

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  14. I have a totally different set of ideas for you.
    #1..You do not pay for the cell phone contracts and or usage, the parent do.
    #2. Parents do not need a school to teach their children when where and why to use a cell phone. They already have limits and learning stages for them. Oh, and by the way--rules to go with it, like--you Cannot use it during school. It has noplace their.
    #3. The schools need to provide proper usage of books--believe it or not--the internet has a tendancey to go down.
    #4. If I have limits for my child on cell usage, then a school has absolutely no right to alter that at their disgression, interferring with my parental authority.
    #5 It is a pilot program, can you not see that.
    #6. Colleges today are issuing Ipads, but smart students, keep their school and personal usage on different devices as not to be imposed upon by backing up the ipad or the phones, or ipods, or other technical items.
    #7 better way if you wish to insist upon internet possibilities is to use and issue a kindle starting in the 6th grade, where students are beginning to utilize a little more responsibility. However, it should only be allowed for looking up the subject matter, nothing else. The standard kindles are perfect for this as they use whispersink which does not require internet services due to the way the signals are received.
    #8 We can say this is about teaching, but it isn't. We can say it is about responsibility, but it isn't, It is more about saving the schools money thought United States lotteries are supposed to cover a great deal of school necessities. Hmmmmm..where is that money?
    #9 if you wish to save money, then stop printing the books at middle school age. Assign a kindle with the books downloaded and whispersink for the internet capacity and nothing else. The students can have an email directly for school and NOTHING else in which to upload assignments or get information from teachers. Telephones are not the answer, they are the very wrong answer. And of course not every student has one, and most do not have smart phones they have fast services such as Straightalk or family policies that parents do not --think me not rude--but want you designing for them.
    #10 My student has caried a phone since 3rd grade, privately in her purse. She has been taught well that it is for in the event of an emergency, now an 8th grader, she knows it better not be out, used or otherwise--to include her ipod, unless she is coming home on the bus. And, then, use discretion and your number is not allowed to be floating to everyone who wants it. And a teacher better call me, not my student.
    #11--GET A KINDLE--AND I DIDN'T SAY KINDLE FIRE THAT NEEDS WIFI..HAVE AMAZON BARTER WITH THE SCHOOLS FOR A FAIR PRICE SCHOOL WIDE AND ISSUE THEM TO STUDENTS WHO DO NOT HAVE ONE. AFTER THAT, PENCIL AND PAPER SHOULDN'T BE TOO HARD TO CARRY.

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  15. Okay all you people are judgmental, mean, and wrong. And FYI:I do not accept the apology for "anonymous" drooling on the floor.

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  16. Kids should not be able to use cell phones in school. It's distracting, not only for themselves, but everyone else around them. Adam Friedman

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  17. The potential for mobile phones grows when you think of them more as powerful handheld computers, complete with camera, speakers and a whole host of educational apps. at my school has been leading the use of mobile device in learning. Throughout last year the mobile@priory charter was created and led by head of department David Rogers and co-constructed by students to enable them to use mobile devices in learning. This was trialled through the geography department and found great success with students becoming more actively engaged with their learning.

    matlab assignment help

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  18. Being a student, you should know the policies revolving inside the classroom. Most especially students were using their gadgets when a teacher are having discussion. If it is caught by the teacher, it should be automatically confiscate. Because it is not easy to have lecture in a class then there are some are busy using their gadgets secretly...

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  19. Just the fact that people have to debate this is sad enough. OF COURSE STUDENTS SHOULD NOT HAVE CELL PHONES! Today, I watched a group of high school students not even go for lunch.OK guys it's lunch break: Not even a head was raised. Just texting away on their idiot phones. Didn't eat. Didn't actually talk to another human being just sat there and played with their phones. I feel so sorry for these people. And by the way, in the REAL world (the place that schools do nothing to prepare kids for) people get fired for being on their cell phones at work. It happened in our city at a dollar store in the mall and the young worker is still in a state of shock that her manager wasn't ok with her being on the phone all day. But why is it ok in school than? she says. So, so sad.

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    1. So fail the kids who text instead of study! That prepares them for crappy jobs at the dollar store.

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  20. i think we should have phones in school because my teachers always are on there phone and they text all the time, they call people allthe time, and they have a alarm and when that alarm goes off the teachers stop the class from learning and so if they get to have there out then i think we should be able to have our phone out to so.....

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    1. What a crappy teacher. Tell your principal and your parents.

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  21. I'm a teacher in a school that used to ban phones. Now teachers can decide. I support phones in the classroom as long as they are silent and students don't get too distracted. In life they will have to deal with distraction, so they should learn in class too. A quick check of messages or a website is okay and as long as they are getting their work done and learning, then it is okay. If a student is having trouble, then we will have a discussion about if they are distracted by their phone and together come up with a solution.

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  22. I Agree with #4. As a high school student i disagree with the double standards. i pay school tax and so do many others! the fact that that high school bought them ipad and are allowing the teachers to take them home is outragous. but when a student uses a phone he/she is given a detention.

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  23. In the school I teach at, only the 8th grade is allowed to use phones for school-related things like projects, which I think gives the wrong idea to all the other students and is unfair. All students should be allowed to use them.

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  24. students should be allowed to use phones in class. It is OK if they choose to fool around, they are only hurting themselves. The "no phone" rules limit the kids who would actually use the phones for school work.

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