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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Cell phones in school

Cell phones in school

Related Tags: School Leadership
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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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George Stern's picture
George Stern
Intern at Edutopia, college student, aspiring Educator.

Joe, Ed, Bruce: thanks for raising this topic. Because cell phones are so ubiquitous, it seems like they have great potential to be a good classroom resource. But at the same time, they definitely can enable cheating and distractions. I want to make sure you've seen these two Edutopia blog posts from a few years ago where Ron Smith talks about the possibility of using phones to help connect with students, among other benefits:

First post: http://www.edutopia.org/cellphonesinclass
Second post: http://www.edutopia.org/ringing

What do you think? Could this work in your schools?

Bruce Cook's picture
Bruce Cook
Principal at Brunswick High School, Brunswick, Maine

Hi George,
Thanks for your response. I will share your postings with others and use them for further discussion. This issue cannot be ignored.

joe kent's picture

Thanks George, I'll certainly check into the two postings you've provided. It is a large issue with many different points of view. Ed, this means getting to that 'acceptable use policy' is going to be interesting to say the least. Bruce you're right, we cannot ignore it because this issue is certainly not going away. There has to be a win-win solution to this issue.

Melissa Willes's picture

I recently attended admin training at Sacramento County Office of Ed. and I have to tell you that ALL of the attendees had their laptops and cell phones and were constantly multitasking. So, how do we transfer that behavior into an acceptable use policy and integrated our academic agenda into the students' existing framework of technology. Thanks for posting this topic. I'll watch for more.

Bruce Cook's picture
Bruce Cook
Principal at Brunswick High School, Brunswick, Maine

Melissa,
Thanks for the post. Your experience at the conference seems to be the norm and is indicative of the direction that we must go in. This is a very important issue for many and by the lack of clear guidelines and response, it appears to one of interest, but one that lacks a clear direction. We need to be careful as to how to proceed as this is new ground. I am reading a book by Nicholas Carr, The Shallows, What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains and find it to be of concern. It does not negate our responsibility regarding this issue but it certainly sounds a cautionary note. I need to hear more to feel confident in how to proceed.

Laura's picture
Laura
Special Education Administration

We looked at a change in our cell phone policy this year, but a majority of our teachers were resistant to the idea of change. The result was that we stayed with our same basic policy. Right now we allow students to use their phones before school and once the final bell rings. Otherwise, students can have their phone taken from them if it is seen or heard during the school day.

Elizabeth LeNoir's picture

At our high school we have decided to embrace the technology. Our students have phones and know how to text; most have unlimited texting plans. Beginning in January we began training our students and staff on how to use the web site www.polleverywhere.com appropriately in the classroom. Teachers create polls (multiple choice questions) on the website, for free, download into a presentation and then present the questions to the class. Students use their own cell phones to text in responses in live time! Bar graphs grow and change in real time in front of the class, using just a computer and LCD projector. We set it up with lots of structure, but the students are engaged in a new and exciting way to check for understanding.

Eric Anderson's picture
Eric Anderson
Special Ed Teacher for students with emotional and behavioral disorders

My students all have mental health issues and the attendant poor emotional self-regulation. Cell phones in our school are a distraction at best and a way of enabling inappropriate behavior at worst. We also need to teach our students to be more social and leaving them in electronic worlds or enabling instant access to parents does not help students reach this goal.

In formulating policy, then, administrators and teachers need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of students. One size does not fit all.

Eric Sheninger's picture
Eric Sheninger
Principal at New Milford High School
Blogger
Facilitator

This is a great topic and one policy that we are looking to change as well. If anyone has some successful policies and effective integration techniques for teaching and learning please post them here!

Connie's picture
Connie
6th grade math teacher

Our cell phone policy was that they were to be turnrd off when the students came in school and locked in their locker until the end of the school day. If they were found with them, they were taken (usually because they were being used during class time)and given to an administrator till the end of the day. More than one offense and a parent was asked to come and pick up the phone. This year the district administration changed this policy and phones are not to be confiscated for any reason. I don't quite understand why they need them during class time. How do they have time to be texting - especially other students in the building - when they are supposed to be paying attention to their lessons?

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