Cellphones in the Classroom: Benefit or Bust?

Cellphones in the Classroom: Benefit or Bust?

Ah the cellphone, what a modern delight. I am of an age that allows me to appreciate how far cellphone technology has come, from the old school bag phones of the 90’s to the smart phone of today. To be quite honest, I often wonder why we still call them phones, since that is only one of the multitude of functions they serve. Even though I was initially a hold-out to jumping on the cellphone bandwagon once they became more widely available I eventually caved in and got myself a Samsung A800 “flip-phone”. Honestly I haven’t looked back since then, and like many other people, my cell has become my constant companion because I use it to do so much. Yet although cellphones are a blessing in all that they can do for us, they can often serve as distraction, and waste our time. I know that I can spend hours scrolling through social media feeds, or playing word games when I should be doing other things. I guess the point is that when using our phones balance is key. Cellphones are neither good or evil, but have the potential to bring us both. 

Just as adults are susceptible to the lure of the cellphone, so too are kids and teens. This is of course why students need to be receiving messages about healthy technology use from home, school, and the media. It is because of the issues that cellphones can cause with students that many schools have implemented cellphone bans. Despite this, I don’t think cell phones should be necessarily be banned in schools, for two reasons. One is because they are a necessary tool that students use to communicate with their parents before and after school. The second reason is because of their potential to be used as learning tools, and backup technology when there is not enough. 

These reasons also happen to be points brought up by the disagree side during a recent debate I witnessed on whether cellphones should be banned in the classroom. Both sides in the debate made excellent points. The agree group explained some of the psychological damages that can be caused by social media, how cyberbullying increases when phones are present, and the constant distraction cellphones provide. Although I do believe that cellphones should not be banned, there is a caveat. The points that the agree side brought up are spot on, so with this in mind,  I do not think students should have free reign with their phones, or even have access to them when they are not needed.  As a middle school teacher I can attest to the distraction and drama that cell phones bring with them, which is why they need to be managed properly by the school or teacher. Many teachers including myself address this by locking up the students phones in a caddy or filing cabinet until they are either needed, or to send them home at the end of the day. 

I can only surmise that my opinion might be otherwise if I didn’t work with middle school aged children, and use technology with them in some form each day. As it stands, I do not think we should necessarily rely on using student cellphones in class, but I also think we should not rule it out entirely, when appropriate. Ask yourself this, If we banned cellphones at school would students no longer face phone addiction and cyberbullying? 

2 thoughts on “Cellphones in the Classroom: Benefit or Bust?

  1. Hi Jessica,
    I figured I’d carry on our cell phone convo on your blog post now. Ah yes, the bag phone! My dad had one in his truck when I was very little – I remember everyone being amazed by it! I didn’t have my own flip phone until I turned 19, and I feel like I’ve been battling my cell phone addiction ever since. I agree that students need adult role models – at home, school, etc. – but I fear there are very few adult role models out there. It seems the younger the staff demographic becomes at my school, the more I see adult cell phone use. I sometimes lump myself into this poor example, but I am honest with my students (and children) about the struggle to disconnect. Yes, I like your approach to cell phone use at school. Before/after seems workable. During class has to have a VERY clear purpose with STRONG adult supervision. My school has banned cell phone use during school hours, and (in answer to your last question) it has very clearly helped diminish cyberbullying. Wish I could say it eradicated both addiction and bullying altogether.

  2. Hi Kim, I’ve noticed that the banning of the phones in school just limits the bullying to after hours, but the effects still spill over into school hours. My last school got rid of phones entirely, and though it did slow down some of the drama, but like you said, it doesn’t eradicate it.

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