The Continuing Discussion of Cell Phones in Schools

Even though Classrooms for the Future (CFF) has ceased to be in any form it once was, one of the great collaborative areas for the former CFF Coaches (many are now Instructional Technology Coaches) is our listserv. Today, a question arose as to whether allowing cell phones in schools would violate CIPA arose, as many districts want to ensure that they can obtain as much funding as they can. I can assure you, allowing cell phones does not violate CIPA. If the students are not using their phones to access the schools network, then it is fine (it is necessary to have classroom management skills to allow their use, though). If a student is using a cell phone to access the school's network, well, the network should already be filtered anyway!

But this led to another discussion about allowing them or not as devices period. As many of you know, this is an issue that I hold close, as I feel students should be allowed to use the devices in school and have had success integrating the technology into my classroom. But I did enter into the debate on the listserv, and realized that my argument on there could be very useful to other educators trying to bring cell phones into their districts. Below is part of the conversation:

There is a modicum of responsibility that will always rest with the student. If they are properly using the cell phone for educational purposes, then there is no issue. It is only when they move outside of the area of "educational purposes" where the issue arise, as with any other tool. If a device is being used inappropriately, then it needs to be addressed thusly. However, if we are just saying "No" to a device due to possible disruptions, we are only inviting more disruptions (students WILL have cell phones with them, regardless of the rules).

But a question I bring up is, "Do we want the 'inmates' running the 'asylum?'" I no longer need public school for my personal gain. I have a job in a public school, but this institution is not here for me. It is here for the education of the students who walk the halls every day. We should be providing them an environment that suits their needs and desires. They have expressed again and again that they want to be able to use their cell phones in school, both educationally and socially. Yes, there are potential issues that could arise, but I think I could come up with a similar situation for any issue that does not use a cell phone. We have dealt with those issues. We can do the same with cell phones.

Since I have started using cell phones in my classes, there have been fewer phones confiscated from those who are students in my classes. As we are using the devices, we are also discussing appropriate uses, etc. I even model how to react to a ringer going off during class by leaving my ringer on and having a friend call it while I am teaching. It rings, and while continuing to teach, I just reach into my pocket and silence the ringer. I don't make a big deal. I don't fumble around. I just go about as if nothing big is happening (I do have to say that my classroom phone rings much more frequently than any combination of cell phones in my classroom during lessons). After going over my lesson, I have a small discussion with my students about how to react (or not react) to a disruption of this sort.

Two weeks ago, a situation arose where my students were tested. A student forget to silence her phone (we all make this mistake), and it went off in the middle of a lesson. She quietly and calmly silenced the phone, I kept teaching, and not a single student reacted in any other way to the "disruption." The lesson got through to them. Now, had I followed the rule to the letter of the law, I would have confiscated the phone on the spot. I would have had to stop the lesson to ask for the phone, possibly argue with the student that didn't want to part with her device, and then get the class back into the lesson. Which, I ask, is more disruptive?
I hope an argument like this can help more districts allow the use of cell phones in education. There are so many things that can be done, but only if the ability to use the devices is there.

No comments: