Cellphones in class – yea or nay?

cell-phone-buttons-by-jonjon2k8-on-flickr

cell-phone-buttons-by-jonjon2k8-on-flickr

My latest reading has been to do with the issue of cellphones in schools.  There is a strong argument that allowing them into class is a major distraction, and that they should be banned.  There is an equally strong case for not only allowing them into class, but incorporating their use in lessons.  I did a little digging around and unearthed a few interesting articles on the subject.  The one I connected with most was this one by The Innovative Educator

Additionally, teachers need to experience, understand the educational value, and be comfortable with technology tools before using them to enhance teaching and learning. If we are exposing teachers to ways in to incorporate cells into the classroom, we are providing that teacher and classroom with tremendous power and access and an ability to model for students how to use a cell phone as a learning tool.

This is very true.  If we are aware of the potential drawbacks of this kind of approach – the most common one mentioned is cheating on tests – then we look for a workaround to this particular issue, such as no cellphones during tests.  The idea that students being able to communicate more freely with each other is surely a positive outcome in most cases.  Sure, there will always be the exception where a student abuses or misuses the privilege.  That happens now with internet access, but we still allow it in schools.  Not in my current school, but I envisage in many, there may be an issue of cost.  Cost of the actual phone, cost of the airtime, etc. that may discriminate against some students.  We don’t need the latest all singing all dancing cellphones for them to be useful.  Read this post by Cool Cat Teacher as to how she begins the school year.

My feeling is that we need to be a bit open-minded about this.  Using calculators is now expected, and taught.  Not that many years ago it was considered quite radical, if not cheating, to allow students to use them in a mathematics exam. 

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Cellphones in class – yea or nay?

  1. contej

    Call me a cynical old bloke, but I am a bit suspicious when a company that makes chips for cell phones pay for a report on how good cell phones are for education.

  2. My school has a fairly liberal policy. We allow cell phones during all but “instructional time.” That translates to allowing kids to text or call between periods and at lunch.

    We have moved past a situation where we were outright banning phones during a class period. I was a bigmouth about allowing phones to be on at the teacher’s discretion.

    Since cell phones started including decent cameras, I have been allowing kids to pull them out in the middle of labs to capture images of their work. What did this do for us? If nothing else… let’s say not one kid continued the conversation in class because of a photograph that made its way out. If nothing else, those image fly onto Facebook and end up marketing your course in ways you can’t imagine.

    So suggestion number “only” => be doggone certain that you are really doing right by kids before allowing them to photograph or video your class with a cellphone. Hmmmm… perhaps this is the reason we get so touchy when the subject of mobile phones comes up.

    And besides, check out the conversation that comes up in comments below these images. More often that I had expected, it really IS about the learning goals(s) for the lesson. Weird, huh?

    I have tried all of the free apps like Polleverywhere, etc. Once those allow large usage for free, they might interest me. But for now, they are not much more to instruction than a cool little curiosity. They will get better though. Generally speaking, if it can be done, and it works reasonably well… it will be done.

    Cellphones are only disruptive because kids have to be so sneaky to use them. Once you take that element away, and allow them on the desk, the kids aren’t looking into their pocket. Shed light on anything scary and it becomes… less scary. Does anyone who throws cell phone panic ever allow kids to use laptops in class? I would bet not. Most folks who freak out about cells are the folks who set up their classroom flow to involve the teacher as the center of attention the vast majority of the time.

    And smartphones? => The more kids roll in with iPhones and Blackberries, the more opportunities you will have for all sorts of interesting applications in the classroom.

    Hey- I’m open on this one.

  3. pelkeymatt

    Interesting, I really always just assumed that a cell phone in a class was a clear cut distraction to the learning. The versatility of the tool does lend itself to interesting applications as laid out in the post you linked. It could in fact support learning in different ways. My question is how do you monitor -or do you monitor- the possible misuse of the phone?

    Check out this video I was sent yesterday that illustrates an application of the cell phone you may not have thought of.

    sorry for the cut and paste-

  4. pelkeymatt

    oops- I thought I had figured out the html above so you could have clicked on video and gone to this site that unfortunately you will have to cut and paste, do check it out:

  5. koppm

    Good question, Nadine. To address the idea of misuse of cellphones in class, I would venture to say that anything can be “misused”, even a crumpled up piece of paper aimed at a classmates head. But we certainly would not disallow the use of paper or pens simply because they could act as projectiles. And yet, I still doubt the idea of the cellphone as the next big learning tool. To echo Sean’s idea above, I would want to see some more practical and powerful implementation tools (software, etc.) before I jumped in with both feet. I guess it’s like a lot of debates with technology – facebook for example – I’m sure it has some great uses, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be used (or banned altogether). All of this technology seems to bring the classroom into even more shades of gray, rather than black and white. I’m loathe to dismiss the use of a technology wholesale simply because it might not be used for classroom learning.

    Mike

  6. Pingback: Finding your way with a Cell Phone. « Get Your Blog in Shape

  7. Jarrett Mecum

    Cellphones that are ergonomic and feature packed are really the trend these days. –

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