Cellphones in the Classroom

Posted: October 28, 2013 in Education, Humanity


In the world of education, a popular topic is technology. To stay ahead of the ever-changing face of education, teachers are constantly bombarded with a variety of technological tools. For instance, there are Smart Boards, which are interactive whiteboards; there are Clickers, which allow students to give answers anonymously; there are iPads; there are a myriad of education apps (for the iPad); there are, of course, the latest Apple laptops; and most recently, a Juno machine – this is a multi-functioning portable speaker system that can amplify sound, mic teachers, and record lessons.

My school is fortunate enough to have all of the aforementioned devices for use at any time by any teacher.

Video lessons are becoming popular now – I have a colleague with his own YouTube account of math lessons. I have another colleague who uses Skype, quite often, to connect his students to a variety of engaging speakers. I, myself, even created an interactive textbook (through an Apple app) for my grade 10 course. This is exactly what it sounds like – an entirely downloadable textbook filled with handouts, assignments, movies, audio files, and pictures built directly into it.

Teachers, these days, are no strangers to technology.

So, I am often asked by my non-teacher friends and family members: “Do your students bring their cellphones to class?”

They do.

Cellphones in the classroom is often a great debate and there are usually three sides: 1. Do not allow students to bring them and police this closely, 2. Allow students to bring them and if they distract themselves, that’s their issue, and 3. Allow students to bring them, but ensure they understand that they are not allowed to use them during class time. If they do, enforce a consequence.

I will say, immediately, that I will never take side 1 simply because I am not a babysitter or policeman – my job is to teach English literature. Moreover, these students are now at an age where they need to police their own behaviour. So…I am torn between side 2 and 3.

Side 2 is great because it can be a tangible reason as to why a student is not doing so well in my course. I can also teach freely without having to worry about doling out a consequence. Finally, it gives the freedom to the students to make the decision for themselves on whether or not to put it away. This is usually the basket where I put my eggs.

Side 3, however, allows me to teach a valuable life lesson on manners. The bottom line is that whether I am speaking or a student is speaking, it is rude to blatantly use your phone – this is disrespectful and a social faux pas. If someone were speaking to you face-to-face, would you take out your phone and start texting in that moment? Probably not. So why is this behaviour acceptable in the classroom? The students, I can guarantee, do not see this as rude.

Simply allowing the students to have it in their possession during class is the compromise and many students take advantage of this courtesy.

So, side 2 allows me to ignore the behaviour (as negative as that sounds) and side 3 allows me to attempt to correct the behaviour. I just worry that side 3 is one of those battles against technology that one simply cannot win. We have become so obsessed with technology that it has become an essential part of our lives that we don’t even want to attempt to function without it – even for an 80-minute class.

It now becomes a respect issue and it forces teachers to now teach technological-etiquette.


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