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Cellphones should be banned from the classroom. Yes or no?

So many perspectives to consider on this debate question! I have many personal experiences that I am drawing from both as a student, and as a teacher.

I will begin by sharing my experience as a student with a cellphone. For my entire kindergarten to grade eight schooling, I did not have a personal cellphone. Around grade six I remember my friends and other students started bringing iPods, digital cameras and flip phones to school. Oh, those were the days when you needed all three. Very quickly, rules around cellphone use in school were very much zero tolerance. It would be taken away at first sight and a parent would have to come to pick it up from the office at the end of the school day. Did this stop us from using them during the unsupervised time? Absolutely not.

As I transitioned into high school I was given my first cellphone. The rules were:

  1. Always answer the phone when mom or dad is calling or texting.
  2. Do not rack up over charges on the phone bill.
  3. Do not send mean and inappropriate messages to others.

If I did any of these items mentioned above, I would have my phone taken away for a period of time as punishment. As a pretty level-headed and responsible teenager, I think I only had my phone taken away once, but I know this is not always the norm for others. Did I sneak some text messages during classes throughout the day? For sure. But, I also never let my grades slip due to distractions or lack of focus because of cellphone use. This can be said for my experience in university as well. Knowing how to engage with cell phones appropriately is an important life skill. Mobile phones can be silenced during class or study periods, and active only in appropriate places. For the most part, these were pretty basic but important rules about having a cellphone. However, the capabilities of smartphones compared to my LG Rumor and Blackberry are vastly different and require a lot of different guidance and privacy protections.

Gosh I felt like the coolest person on the planet with this phone!

When I walked into my very first grade 6 teaching job five years ago it was an entire school-wide rule that students were not to use cell phones during the school day. From 9:00-3:35 cellphones are in backpacks, cellphone homes or left at home. It made for a much easier transition into learning my philosophy around classroom management and not having to manage students becoming distracted or in trouble for using a personal device at school. Did it eliminate all cellphone problems? Nope. But, it drastically reduced them compared to other colleagues in different buildings. Since then, my classroom policy has always been no cellphones. We have access to an entire laptop cart that we share with one other classroom. I’ve always told students that anything they think they want to do on their cellphone for school, can be done using a student device. I also have found that only about half of my students actually have cellphones that they regularly bring to school as well. However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t ever allow cell phones in the future, especially if I ever end up teaching an older grade or have less access to devices. While the problems with cellphones in school are valid, and clear consequences for misuse should be enforced, implementing a blanket policy forbidding the resource altogether would be severely counter-intuitive and unrealistic!

Recently, I have been letting my students use their cellphones for certain activities where they were required to take pictures of videos because the quality is so much better. I spent an entire lesson discussing with my students how there is a time and a place for using personal devices. If students have clear parameters around what they are using cell phones for, they are more likely to respect the regulations around them. Just like social media and digital citizenship, we have to teach students how to responsibly use cell phones in a learning environment. These skills will transfer into their extra-curricular experiences and their future employment opportunities. Sam Kery, from the New Ed Tech Classroom on Youtube, points out that encouraging cellphone use in the class can promote more engaging lessons, and can teach students how to use the app versions of different platforms. There is more potential for digital creations and the opportunity to share and connect with others.

At the end of the debate, I did end up switching my vote from agreeing to disagree and I think that many others in the class felt the same way as well. Let me know your personal thoughts or experiences with cellphones in the classroom both positive and maybe not so positive!


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