Cell Phones in Class: Acceptable or Not?

Lisa Nielsen wrote a post about “5 Reasons to Allow Students to Use Cell Phones in Class.”  Allowing cell phones in class goes completely against the rules we are used to.  Things are starting to change though.  For example, the year after I graduated from high school, students were allowed to start using their phones at lunch.  That was a big deal at my high school.  Phones had always been confiscated at lunch!  In my opinion, phones should always be allowed in between classes and during lunch.  I can’t believe it took until 2010 for the rule to change.

Now, some educators think cells phones should be used in class. Nielsen gives 5 reasons why:

  1. We should allow students to use the tools they’ll be using in life after graduation.
  2. We should use the technology that is readily available.
  3. Mobile devices are great for teaching 21st Century skills.
  4. If administrators use their phones, students should be able to as well.
  5. Allows opportunities to teach students responsible ways of using technology.

Lisa Nielsen thinks that cell phones enhance learning; but do they?images

In my opinion, only #2 and #4 are valid reasons to use cell phones in class.  Most schools are on a tight budget and reason #2 makes a good point that cell phones are readily available because most students have them.  For #4, I completely agree that a double standard is not okay.  Here’s why I think the other reasons are kind of lame:

#1: Students will use their phones regardless.  Typically, they know how to use them better than we do.  We don’t need to teach them how to use their phones.  They use them plenty outside of school.

#3: Any technology is good for teaching 21st century skills.  Sometimes, no technology is good for teaching 21st century skills because students need to learn to think creatively.  When they just get ideas off Google, they aren’t thinking independently.

#5: You don’t have to specifically use cell phones to teach students how to be responsible with technology and the internet.

Since I only graduated high school 4 years ago, I know that students aren’t going to use their cell phones for the right reasons in class.  Maybe a few will, but most just care about updating their social media.  To be honest, I’m in graduate school and I still don’t use my cell phone for learning purposes in class…that’s what my computer is for!  Therefore, I tend to think cell phones interrupt learning.

However, kids are getting cell phones earlier and earlier in life.  I know a 6 year old with a cell phone!  That’s first grade.  Maybe, elementary school teachers can help students learn how to use their cell phones appropriately in class at early age.

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Then, maybe, by the time those students get to high school, they’ll use them appropriately in class.  Just an idea, but teenagers will always be teenagers and I’m not sure if cell phones will ever be a good idea in class.

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The New Digital Learning Playbook

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Speak Up is a national initiative of Project Tomorrow. The Speak Up National Research Project annually surveys K-12 students, parents, educators, and administration about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. Speak Up’s 2013 National Findings provides some very interesting information about the ways students are using technology.

The article states that the mobile device is “the new gateway to self-initiated technology use for schoolwork.” 64% of parents said they would purchase a mobile device for their child to use at school if it was allowed. Students are saying that it’s an obstacle to school technology use when school’s do not allow students to bring their own devices. Students were asked about their aspirations and ideas for improving technology use at school. Their answers from Speak Up’s Findings are below.

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I question students’ intentions of wanting greater access to websites, using their own mobile devices, and recharging their mobile devices at school. I graduated from high school 4 years ago. I don’t think students’ mindsets have changed that much. I used my iPhone to text and check social media in class. I remember my access to websites was fine – we just couldn’t view YouTube or Facebook. I’m not sure I would have gotten much work done if I could have. My personal opinion is that kids are bored. I don’t think that the problem is so much about the use of technology. I think the content needs to be more relevant and interesting to students. Then, they won’t care if they’re using tech or not.

The article talks about “envisioning the ultimate school” and how one-size does not fit all. Students, parents, and educators do not share the same vision of the ultimate school. It’s important to take all views into account. Each school and student population is going to be different. It’s important for each school to hear the voice of its students and parents before making its technology game plan. I think it’s important to ask students why they want something available at school to make sure their intentions are good. In addition, educators really need to get to know their students on a personal, deep level so that learning can be made personalized, interesting, and relevant whether or not tech is involved.

When I’m a teacher, I will incorporate technology when appropriate. I think it would be a good idea to get to know my students and parents’ use of technology at the beginning of the year to see what types of tech they like to work with. Each year, I’m going to have to adjust how I incorporate tech in the classroom to fit the interests of my students. I want to make sure that using technology enhances learning in my classroom, and that I’m not just using it for tech’s sake.

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