Home' THE Journal : January 2013 Contents The Pros and Cons of Allowing
Cell Phones in Class
As of now I think cell phones are more of a
distraction than they are worth, in my area
at least (literature/writing). In my experi-
ence, they (as well as laptops) are often
used for purposes other than to advance
students’ understanding of what we are
examining. I think they may have more use in
a science class, but don’t have any experi-
ence to speak from.
I even suspect that most “social media” is
anti-social media in that it distracts attention
from the persons in our immediate surround-
ings. I think this will be an interesting field of
study in the future.
Dr. Timothy Brady
Wayland Baptist University
Sierra Vista, AZ
Cell phones are wonderful things. Great for
keeping in touch, not having to find a pay
phone, being able to notify people when you
will be running late. They are our address
book, our calendar, our flashlight, our calcula-
tor. For some of us, our mobile office and
navigator. If you have a smartphone, it is your
computer away from home or office. They can
be used to gather and transmit data for class
activities, take surveys and exit quizzes, take
notes, look up the answer to a question that
can’t be found in your text, and complete your
definitions for class when your teacher
doesn’t use a textbook. Wonderful, versatile
devices which help expand our horizons and
keep us in touch with the world on a level
never possible before.
Do they belong in the classroom? Not in
many cases! In the best of all possible worlds,
students would not be distracted by their on-
board gadgets, cheat on tests, cyberbully,
steal other people’s belongings, or text their
mother—or worse yet, text their posse to
come up to the school and jump on whoever
dissed them in the cafeteria or restroom. Nor
would they take pictures of inappropriate
activities in the stairwells and bathrooms to
post on Facebook.
Our school year started out with students
carrying cell phones. Then things tightened
up and they had to have them shut off and
out of sight during the school day. Now we
are up to phones being checked in at the
front door and passed back out at the end of
Incidents which precipitated these changes
include students talking and texting on their
phones during class, taking inappropriate
pictures in the bathrooms, recruiting outsid-
ers to gang up on other students whom they
have issues with, stealing other people’s cell
phones, skipping classes to hang out in the
bathrooms with friends from other classes,
and calling home to complain to a parent
every time something doesn’t suit them, like
the teacher requesting that they attend to
As with every new notion or invention, there
is a learning curve. It takes a while to get all
the kinks worked out, design workable and
enforceable policies and protocols, and get
people to comply. Cell phones have been with
us for quite a while. Are we ready for them in
the classroom yet? In some schools, we may
be. In many others, definitely not.
Quite simply put, there are no valid reasons
for any teacher to allow cell phone use in the
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| JANUARY 2013
tempted to use it for everything except what
I’ve asked them to use it for. (Same thing
goes for teachers in a faculty meeting.)”
“Anything that distracts kids is contrar y to
good pedagogy. Why is there a belief that all
technology is desirable? To paraphrase Ju-
rassic Park: Just because we can, does not
mean we should.”
“What of the added complication of student
phones and other electronic devices being
stolen from them and/or students being bul-
lied or attacked in order to do so?”
“Cell phones are one of the worst things you
can have in school as they enable maladap-
tive behaviors. [Saying] that this problem is
ethical is like the argument that “bullets don’t
kill people...” Speaking of bullets, yesterday
we had a lockdown drill. A cell phone went
off as we were hiding. [What’s the] protocol
for a gunman to not find students?”
I don’t think these people are crackpots.
They present legitimate concerns that any-
one on the “pro” side of the argument must
consider. The fact is, we do ban cell phones
in many places—the theater, church, the
dinner table (at least, my dinner table)—all
for appropriate reasons. I’m not saying that
these educators’ concerns aren’t address-
able, but they cannot be clustered under
some umbrella charge of Ludditism.
I bring all this up because I am moderating a
panel at FETC 2013 on the pros and cons of
using cell phones in classrooms. I’ve got my
“pro” side all lined up—Elliot Soloway, per-
haps the strongest advocate there is on using
smartphones in learning. But I need an intel-
ligent voice on the other side of the argument.
Do you know someone who will be attending
FETC (or who lives near Orlando) who could
give Elliot a run for his money? If so, can you
please e-mail me?
While you’re at it, if you are “for” cell
phones in classrooms, please share with me
how you think we should address people’s
real concer ns. If you are “against,” what
would need to happen to change your mind?
YOU’D THINK THAT readers of T.H.E.
Journal would respond with a resounding
“NO!” to the question of whether to ban cell
phones in school, but you’d be surprised.
We’ve run many stories on the topic and
we receive a fair amount of reader response
in which educators (technology-advocating
educators, I should add) are either outright
against or have really strong reservations
about allowing these devices in classrooms.
Take a look at a few of the comments we
received on a story back in March:
“As middle school administrator, there are
continual issues that must be addressed re-
garding cell phones. Texting, sexting, cheat-
ing, and taking photos during class time, to
name a few. Also ensuring students have a
top of the line phone with app ability is not
feasible, especially in these economic times.
Please let’s not do something more that in-
creases the pressure on all stakeholders.”
“I’m sorr y, but even my seniors lack the ma-
turity to use the cell phone as the tool it could
be. It is merely a distraction because they are
Should We Ban Cell Phones in the Classroom?
There are good arguments on both sides of the question. What’s yours?
Therese Mageau, Editorial Director
| NOVEMBER 20 12
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