Could Cell Phone Bans Be the Big Push for a Better Understanding of Technology Use on our Limited Earth?

Debate 6: Cell Phones should be banned in the classroom.

As mentioned in my first blog post, in my classroom at the moment, I have very slack rules when it comes to cell phone usage. But after the experiences of this year and witnessing how students’ cannot peel their eyes from their cell phones, I am swearing to myself that next year I will start with a strict no cell phone policy during instruction time.

In the debate the Agree side spoke of many of the issues that are occurring with continued cell phone use in the classroom such as, technology addiction, distractions, cyberbullying and cheating. It was super cool to learn a new word during this debate: nomophobia (stated in Carel’s 2019 article)! I did not know this was a thing, but I can say that I have both witnessed other people experience nomophobia and I have to admit – I have experienced it myself! 

Breanna Carel’s article not only introduced me to the word nomophobia, but I also connected with her statements on multitasking. Now if you recall, in our first debate on whether technology is enhancing student learning, we referenced a TedTalk that spoke about multitasking – and how our brains can’t do it! But what is interesting is Carel’s theories that students are in fact “task switching” – which is having cognitive costs on student learning. The second connection I made with Carel’s article is the proximity of a cellphone to students. Every semester I have our addictions counselor, Rand Teed, come and speak to students regarding mindfulness and every time he comes to my class, one of the first things he says to the students is to put away their phones and make sure even the vibration is turned off. Because even that vibration will pull your attention away from what you are trying to focus on!

The Disagree side also made good points, points that I thought I was implementing in my classroom with cell phones. I believed that using phones increased student engagement and accessibility – and yes at times it does! But it is not 100%. The Disagree Team is right, with proper planning and implementation, cell phones can be used appropriately to enhance student learning.

Which is why I will not completely BAN cell phones from my classroom starting in the fall. But only “ban” them from instructional/teaching time. Students will be allowed to be on their cell phones once instruction/activity/demo/whatever is done. Again, as most of you said, discussions (negotiations?) with students regarding cell phone policies in the classroom is important. Students should be a part of those conversations!

What was SUPER interesting about this week’s readings was the idea from the Selwyn and Aagaard article on the sustainability of technology (computing). To be honest, I never thought of the environmental or ethical impact of educational technology. I mean, I knew about the effects of mining for metals to make batteries and other parts of tech devices, but the bigger picture of the effects of digital technology consumption on the environment – never. 

Selwyn and Aagaard (2021) brought up some really interesting points/questions! Including:

  • “In a resource-constrained future it will make little sense to expect every teaching and student to individually possess their own personal digital devices” (p. 15)
  • Introducing what “Computing Within Limits” means (p. 16)
  • “How can schools reframe device use as a communal endeavor?” (p. 16)
  • “How can the superfluous [unnecessary] use of technology be discouraged in schools?” (p. 16)

Selwyn and Aagaard state that there needs to be a shift in school cultures and understandings regarding digital technology – a new framework that would value “mutuality, responsibility and humility”! WOW! What a concept! This brings me back to worldviews – and how our education system is made in a Eurocentric/Western worldview. I believe what Selwyn and Aagaard are suggesting is a transition to a more Indigenous Worldview! One that centers communal learning, respect, and reciprocity. Very cool!

Well wish me good luck next year in implementing no cell phones policies in my classroom!

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6 Responses to Could Cell Phone Bans Be the Big Push for a Better Understanding of Technology Use on our Limited Earth?

  1. Great post, Nicole! There’s so much I want to unpack and ask/comment!
    First, can I ask what led to your decision to change your “slack rules” about cell phone use in class? Was it the debate discussions or something else that caused this shift?
    Second, yes, I had also never heard of nomophobia, but have definitely seen and felt it.
    Third, your students are blessed to have you /your awareness to have an addictions counsellor speak to them. I wish every classroom had greater access to these supports. I think it is so needed and beneficial.
    Fourth, yes, I consider myself an environmentalist, but I failed to factor in the environmental impact of so much tech-focused education.
    Leading me to my last comment – I 100% agree with your last paragraph in regards to shifting to a more Indigenous view/approach to education. For the past year, my elementary/middle school has been part of Following Their Voices (FTV) and the shift/impact has been incredible. If you’ve never heard of it before, I highly recommend looking into it. I believe all schools should make this shift.
    Thanks for all the great insights your post brought up for me!

    • Nicole Romanow says:

      Thanks Kim!
      #1 – What caused the shift is the blatant use of cellphones in class. It doesn’t matter what I am doing – they are looking at their phones.
      #3 – I wish we had more than one of these counsellors!! There is only 1 for 4 of our high schools! And now with budget cuts…. 🙁
      #4 – OK this is my ignorance – Is the Following Their Voices a Regina Public thing? I know that Balfour is a Following their voices school. Is it a program created just for Regina Public Schools? Or is a a bigger program that RPS adopted?

  2. Michael Wolf says:

    I wish you luck. I’m considering doing the same thing.

    • Nishat Chowdhury says:

      Hi Michael! I’m a CBC journalist working at the National Education Unit here in Toronto and we’re working on a story about cell phones and the impact they can have on classrooms and student behaviour.

      I see you’re considering restricting the use of cell phones in your classroom and I’m wondering if you’ve done that yet.

      You can send me at note at if you would like to chat.

      Warm Regards,


  3. Mike Gerrior says:

    Excellent post!

    I also had not considered the environmental impact, although I was aware of the issues with consumer culture and the issues with mining. The lakes that are filled with toxic chemicals are what pop up in my head when I think of upgrading my phone. Still I had not linked it to cell phone use in the class.

    As a middle years teacher (at a school with a blanket ban on phones from pre-k to 8), I have not had to deal with the implications much. The real issues occur when I do my yearly screen time tracking in health and uncover which students are addicted. I think it’s brilliant that you can bring in an addictions counsellor to point that out.

    In the end a 1 to 1 ratio of school technology is not feasible and it seems like a wasted opportunity to not take advantage of the cell phones in a targeted and directed manner.

  4. Nishat Chowdhury says:

    Hi Nicole! I’m a CBC journalist working at the National Education Unit here in Toronto and we’re working on a story about cell phones and the impact they can have on classrooms and student behaviour.

    I am reaching out because I see that you’ve restricted the use of cell phones in your classroom due to their disruptive nature. I’m wondering if you would be interested and available and for an on-camera interview at the school, to let us know why.

    Please let me know if we need to request permission from the district to put this request through.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Warm Regards,


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