Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Cell phones in school

Cell phones in school

Related Tags: School Leadership
More Related Discussions
52 Replies 3460 Views
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.

Comments (52 Replies)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Joe Brown's picture

The State of Florida has a law that allows students to carry cell phones in school. In our district, we has said that phones need to be turned off and put away (not necessarily in locker). However, cell phones are affecting many aspects on school life.

Two weeks ago, a high school teacher did not report to work. It turned out that she (a 34 year old cheerleading coach) died alone in her home due to heart issues. The school was trying to control the news, notify the next of kin, alert the district crisis team, etc. Well, some students in the office ehard the news, and it spread liek wildfire throughout the school via texts. The school had to quickly repsond publicly, even against the suggestions of local law enforcement.

Gale's picture

From a high school English teacher that uses cell phones in the classroom for instruction: If a female student is applying makeup, it's an off task problem. If a student is caught secretly listening to an ipod, it's an off task problem. If a student is texting during instruction, it's an off task problem. Over half of my students have Internet on their cell phones! If I cannot have a laptop sitting on every desk, then why can't I use the free Internet access in my student's back pocket? Partners, group work, whole class investigation, voting, test taking, you name it. Cell phones are a free blessing to use for learning, and the students volunteer to uses it for learning. The education system is stupid not to utilize it. What is the big deal? Grow up.

Lori Day's picture
Lori Day
Educational Psychologist and Consultant at Lori Day Consulting
Blogger 2014

I was the Head of School at an independent day school north of Boston. I found that no matter what we tried, students were texting under their desks and it not only caused a huge distraction, but increased cyberbullying right under our noses. I was equally concerned about the distraction cell phones presented for teachers. I constantly caught them on their phones in front of students, walking down the halls, etc. The policy for teachers was that they could only use them on break, in the teacher's lounge. They were assured that in the event of an emergency, they would be found and allowed to leave the room to take or make a call. None of this worked. So we had teachers essentially saying to students, "Do as I say, not as I do." Finally an 8th grader came to my office one day and asked me why I had taken her phone away the day before when I allow teachers to text on their phones while in class. Talk about an "ouch" moment! I got much tougher with the staff after that. The children are always watching. I think that if you are going to create a cell phone policy for the students, you must also have one for the adults who are the role models. Nothing irks a teenager more than hypocrisy!

Lori Day
http://www.loridayconsulting.com

Rick Larson's picture

I remember 20 years ago when we had a zero tolerance no pagers policy and we would patrol halls taking them away from kids on sight. Pagers turned into cell phones,cell phones became cheaper, smaller and ubiquitous . Then came texting. We have lost every one of these battles and we will continue to lose as technology trumps us at every juncture and as the world of wireless unfolds. I work in a lower-middle class, blue collar school and recently surveyed kids asking them "how many of you have cell phones with you, turned on and accepting messages?" 90% said that they did. Parents expect kids to be "on-line all the time" and everyone, kids and teachers alike, are now entering an era when everyone in the world can be reached by anyone at any time. No wonder that this is a steep uphill battle.

Battling this reminds me of how hard we fought for dress codes when we forbade red shirts, blue shirts, bandannas, hats, hats worn crooked,hats worm backwards, writing on hats revealing neck lines, sagging pants, severe sagging pants, barely sagging pants, sagging pants worn over underwear, sagging pants worn over shorts and on and on. I know, I know, everyone will say "well in my school we defeated this or that by doing whatever" but from my vantage point we have always retreated in the face of overwhelming social popularity. When I was in high school boys could not wear jeans, T-shirts, un-tucked shirts or go without a belt. Girls had to wear dresses or skirts. Comparing then to now reveals how far our policies have retreated.

My point is that we cannot win the cell phone thing. Having an automatic link to our children and to the welfare of our babies makes the allure of cell phone use irresistible. Can you imagine the front office sending a classroom teacher a message from a day care alerting you that your baby just threw up? Maybe yes, maybe no but I certainly would want to know and having my cell on vibrate in my pocket makes this possible. I remember instituting a policy requiring all students to wear photo IDs at all times on campus. Reality hit me one day when security brought me a list of 300 kids who were to serve after school detention for no visible ID. I had neither the space nor the staff to pull this off and I was spending all my precious time dealing with the ramifications of this single event.

I can only see three options for us, entry point search and seizure of contraband (and if you want to know how well this works, I could write another article), a technological fix like electronic blocking of all incoming and outgoing signals or policy modification that recognizes cell phone presence and use, maybe even takes advantage of the fact that kids today carry a computer in their pockets far more powerful than the on-board computers that Apollo astronauts took to the moon. This struck me one day when I realized that cell phones have now brought us close to the formerly unattainable goal of having a computer for all kids all the time.

Personally, I do not want to spend my time trying to catch teachers turning their backs to their classes, slipping their phones out of their pockets to type "OMG! hows bb, r u k? :( ".

Cell phone use made be rude and may disrupt learning but it is not the illegal equivalent of drugs, assaults or thefts. Don't get me wrong, I have spent my professional life enforcing unpopular policies but wonder how we might better spend out very limited time. We need to rethink this and always work to find better more efficient ways to be in class room with kids and teachers promoting learning.

Recently, I caught a kid in class obviously using his cell phone while he was supposed to be working on an assignment. When I confronted him he told me he was defining vocabulary words on-line using Google. He told me that this was a much faster way than using the book and he could choose from among several options, images, illustrations and links. I looked at his answers and they were amazing. I let him continue--he was learning.

Radhakrishnan C's picture
Radhakrishnan C
Vice Principal, Dhruv Academy

we can't take away these electronic gadgets from 21st century kids and educators. Trying to detach them from this kind of technology is not going to help any way. What we have to really do is to role model them how to use it for our advantage. Developing good cell phone habits is rally going to help. Educators can use cell phones to keep in touch with the children and also for reminding abt home fun activities or providing guidance to complete home fun. Even SMS Quiz can be organised. Even value quotes and daily messages can be send to students to motivate. I have experimented many of these techniques and have seen wonderful result. In the beginning students won't even looked into my messages but gradually they started paying lot of attention to such messages and even some of those messages turned to be a debating point in the classroom.
Always we should keep in mind that we are training the students for the future. They are going to live in a world better aided by technology than today.

Elizabeth Gilmore's picture
Elizabeth Gilmore
Middle School Teacher from south of Boston

At the middle school where I teach administration has instituted a cell phone policy which allows students to bring their cell phone into the building. However they must turn the cell phone off and leave it in their locker. The first offense for students not following the policy is the cell phone is confiscated brought to the office and the student can get it back at the end of the school day. The second offense and any beyond that the cell phone is confiscated and a parent must come to the school to get the cell phone. There are pages and pages in the log book that records cell phone violations as cell phone use in our school is an ongoing problem. The building staff is very inconsistent with enforcing this policy and even worse they are terrible role models. I see staff on their cell phones in front of students all the time. My sense is that teachers who use their cell phones in class are also the ones who do not strictly enforce the student cell phone policy. Administration has not instituted a cell phone policy for staff but they ask that we be professional and only use our cell phones for an emergency. Cell phone use by students and staff needs to be addressed in my building. I would be interested to spend a day at a school that allows students to use their cell phones. As a teacher I think students having cell phones in class would create a very disruptive environment. I don't feel that middle school age students can be trusted to use their cell phones appropriately as learning tools. I believe there is a time and place for everything and the time and place for cell phone use is not in middle school classrooms.

Heather Bothe's picture

Our school board just recently made this change as well for the middle school and they are getting ready to do it for the elementary schoolers. I think that they SHOULD and COULD use them as a technology tool in the classroom but middle schoolers are NOT ready for FREE unsupervised use of them during FREE time at school. See my letter to the School Board to see why...

Dear School Board Member,

I'm not sure if you are the correct board member to contact or not. If not, will you please forward on to the correct member or on to all the members? I would like to make an appeal to the board to go back to the policy of NO CELL PHONE use at the middle schools and DO NOT let elementary schools start.

A perfect example for changing this policy back is that my daughter has recently been involved in an incident at school where some of the girls were crank calling other girls' homes (that do not even attend their school) during school hours. In some of the cases, these girls have left vulgar and completely inappropriate messages. Inexcusable! I have 4 children and I understand that crank calling is going to happen but it should not be tolerated nor permitted during school hours. I think that you are opening yourselves up to litigation or worse by allowing these kids access to FREE time use of their phones during the school day. Anyone could say that it happened on the school's watch, therefore it is the school's fault. Thus, I am asking you to go back to the policy of NO CELL PHONE use during school hours.

In addition, the culprit that is making these calls is NOT doing it from her own cell phone but asking to use other friends phones at lunch when they have "free" use of them so as to not be identified. Of course, my own child didn't think about her father's name being on caller ID when she "let" this so-called friend borrow her phone. My husband and I were horrified to receive an email from the parent whose house was called using my daughter's phone. After a lengthy conversion with this parent, apparently her daughter has been receiving calls like this over the past few years from this same girl. The parents thought they had nipped the problem in the bud by changing their phone number and blocking the numbers but this girl is now using other people's cell phones during school hours to torment this girl and her family. I consider this a severe case of bullying and I will not tolerate it in my family. My daughter is now grounded from her phone for the next month and WILL NOT be allowed to take her phone to school again.

I strongly believe that kids in middle school are too immature and not ready for some of the responsibilities and consequences that come with "unsupervised" and "free" use of their phones in this manner especially during the school day. Please reconsider this policy. I know that there is a No Bullying policy but allowing these kids access to their phones during the school day "allows" bullying to take place right under the noses of faculty, staff and the parents. My husband and I do our best to raise them up knowing right from wrong but we need to help of the school district to better protect our children and others from bullying like this taking place during school hours.

Please consider changing the policy back.

Thanks for your time.

Cathy Gaudiano's picture

[quote]At the middle school where I teach administration has instituted a cell phone policy which allows students to bring their cell phone into the building. However they must turn the cell phone off and leave it in their locker. The first offense for students not following the policy is the cell phone is confiscated brought to the office and the student can get it back at the end of the school day. The second offense and any beyond that the cell phone is confiscated and a parent must come to the school to get the cell phone. There are pages and pages in the log book that records cell phone violations as cell phone use in our school is an ongoing problem. The building staff is very inconsistent with enforcing this policy and even worse they are terrible role models. I see staff on their cell phones in front of students all the time. My sense is that teachers who use their cell phones in class are also the ones who do not strictly enforce the student cell phone policy. Administration has not instituted a cell phone policy for staff but they ask that we be professional and only use our cell phones for an emergency. Cell phone use by students and staff needs to be addressed in my building. I would be interested to spend a day at a school that allows students to use their cell phones. As a teacher I think students having cell phones in class would create a very disruptive environment. I don't feel that middle school age students can be trusted to use their cell phones appropriately as learning tools. I believe there is a time and place for everything and the time and place for cell phone use is not in middle school classrooms.[/quote]

Cathy Gaudiano's picture

I believe that cell phone use should not be allowed at the middle school level. It would create way to many problems. Cell phone use by staff members at my building also needs to be addressed. I see to many faculty members using thier cell phones (mainly texting )in front of their students.

Cathy Gaudiano's picture

Cell phone use should not be allowed at the middle school level. It would cause way to many problems. Cell phone use by staff members also needs to be addressed at my school. I see to many teachers using thier cell phone (mainly texting) in front of thier students and that just sends a mix message.

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.