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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Cell phones in school

Cell phones in school

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I'm planning on talking to my building leadership team about changing our policy on student cell phones. Currently students are to have their cell phones off and placed in their lockers when they enter the building. Guess what? Probably 99.9% of the student body has his or her own cell phone. This is what brought me to this possible policy change. There has to be something more productive and exciting to do with this technology. Has anyone taken this step to embrace the cell phones in their school by incorporating them into certain content areas / lessons- and if so would you mind sharing some ideas that you've found to be successful or unsuccessful.

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brian cleary's picture
brian cleary
Library/media specialist in Camas Washington

the long and short of the article seems to be that, the smart plan is to find a way to use them rather than trying to pretent that pandora's box is not open.
As a district we struggle to get technology in the hands of our students. currently some 70% of our high school students have that a piece of that puzzle in their pockets and cannot use them for learning.

Carolina Bojorquez's picture

I use cell phones in my classroom to have them text answers to polls, brainstorming questions, multiple choice questions and I love to just see the class come alive when I do this.

I use the free version of Polleverywhere.com the free response and multiple choice options. Try it and let me know how it works out for you!!

I think banning cell phones use is ineffective. It's much better if we teach how to use them to learn. For me, it's beneficial for them to understand that they can use their cell phone to learn and practice a language. This can potentially mean they are engaging with the language outside of class. If they can think of their cell phone as a tool for language learning I will be happy. My goal is to get them exposed and thinking about the language as much as possible wherever they are.

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear Colleagues,

Edutopia's Homepage has a lead article about The Crawford Educational Complex (HS "for Achievement", that is my moniker :-) that is a newly constructed Public HS in San Diego, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose Curriculum and Student Achievements are Singular in the country.


I encourage everyone to visit their website and the individual four
schools' websites within the "Complex", and follow very carefully the
"About..." tabs to read their ESLR's = Expected Schoolwide Learning Results and (School) Policies concerning student conduct, etc.

I did come across the following Schools-wide Policy about Cell Phones, (located on the CHAMPS website) which I find very interesting and at first glance just-on-the-internet, tend to agree with, but I will let you all read what is presented online for yourselves:

Students are encouraged to leave all cell phones and electronic devices (iPods, mp3 players, CD players, PSPs, GameBoys, etc.) at home. They distract from the learning environment of the school. The Complex policy regarding cell phones and electronic devices is as follows:

*Any cell phone or electronic device, including head sets, must NOT be used or be visible during instructional time (class time, passing periods, and nutrition break). The only acceptable time to use these devices is before school, during lunch, and after school.
*School officials, including teachers, security, and office staff, are directed to take such devices away during instructional time and passing periods. 1st offense, item is returned at the end of the school day; 2nd offense, a parent is required to pick up; 3rd offense, item is confiscated. Confiscated items will be delivered to the school office and will only be returned to a parent/guardian of the student from whom it was taken, AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE SCHOOL YEAR.
*Repeated unauthorized use of these devices may lead to disciplinary action by the school.
*The school is not liable for any loss or theft of such items, and will not conduct searches during school hours for such stolen items. Thefts of such items must be reported to the SDPD."


Allen Berg

Rick Larson's picture

I read the San Diego policy and think it is just fine, well written etc. I don't think though that it is either useful or helpful in our struggle to come up with a reasonable approach to this problem. Stopping specific student behaviors is what we have always been all about first and foremost. My question is whether or not we really want expend this much energy confiscating cell phones, meeting with angry parents and disciplining kids for cell phone use. Whenever we take on a popular issue with a draconion policy we set ourselves up for a struggle that will consume more and more of our time. I for one, think that the ship has already sailed. Nearly ever kid in class has a cell phone in his/her pocket that is, in reality, a small computer. We always wanted a computer for every kid and now we are, by default, about to achieve that ideal. There has to be a better way to manage this problem.

Larry Walker's picture
Larry Walker

I have used Poll everywhere in my classes as bell ringers. I have also used poll everywhere as an assessment. It is a great way to start the class because most of the students have them warmed up as they used them in the hallway prior to entering the room. I do not make it a requirement. FYI Make sure that the students who do have access have unlimited texting. The students are well aware of the expectation when using their phones and aware that they do not get them out again during class time. They are "digital natives" and whenever you can use something they seemed to be overly attached to as a teaching tool then go for it.
We had policies in the past like other districts. We went from keeping the phones turned off in their lockers to allowing them between class changes. It doesn't work! We all know what happens then. It gets out of hand quickly and you see more students in the hallways during instructional time. They(students) coordinate their bathroom breaks. "Give them an inch and they take a yard"

Vicki Turner's picture

Below is the guideline I wrote for the former high school where I was an associate principal. It worked wonderfully! Especially in the cafeteria where we were experiencing a lot of issues with fighting and drama.

"In order to accommodate 21st Century technology, allow parents/guardians an opportunity to contact their children during the school day, and teach students responsible use of electronic devices, our electronic device guidelines allow students to use their devices in the cafeteria. Teachers also have the option to allow students to use their devices in class for academic purposes.

Students may not use their devices in any way that violates school policies, including bullying, intimidation, inappropriate photos/games, or cheating.

WHS is committed to helping students learn to utilize their personal electronic devices effectively and responsibly."

Rabbi Kanarek's picture
Rabbi Kanarek
Principal at Yeshiva ohr Yisrael of Atlanta

Wow I wish I could believe that we could trust the kids with cell phones in school. I think that they are too young (even HS) to be able to resist the urge to use the cell phone if they have it in school. I too would be willing to embrace a cell phone use policy if I thought it could be done responsibly

Rabbi Kanarek's picture
Rabbi Kanarek
Principal at Yeshiva ohr Yisrael of Atlanta

Many teachers will use their cell phone when the class is "doing work". It is the teacher's responsibility to be working with the kids and it sends the message to the students that cell phone use is OK in class.

Ghanim Alghanim's picture

I think cell phones should not be allowed in schools. Cell phones could distract students in the class rooms. Students could use cell phones to cheat. Cell phones could be used to take unwanted photographs by the students. Also, students could use cell phones for entertainments. Education is important for all people. Going to school is essential for everyone to learn and to get educated. Everybody has to go to school to have a degree and be an important part of the society. If students were allowed to have cell phones in the class rooms, they can use them inappropriate ways. Students could use them to surf the net and/or listen to music during the class which cause lots of distractions to them and to other students. Moreover, students could use cell phones to take pictures of their class mates secretly and use them in bad ways. Students could use cell phones to cheat during exams and to get the information from the net or from their friends.

Marie Wilson's picture
Marie Wilson
Pre-service secondary biology teacher

What a great idea! Kind of like clickers in some large college classrooms...but not as expensive...like you said - free.

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