“Put that phone away or it’s mine!”

This is what I would tell students using their phones during class when I was an EA.  I didn’t always say it with an exclamation point, but usually it worked pretty well.  And I do believe they can be a problem.  Texting friends or parents in class keeps those texting from fully being part of class and can distract students around them.  Unless the use of cell phones is curbed, cones of ignorance could very well start developing all over the place.

But cracking down doesn’t really solve anything, only causes more conflicts in class.  And pretty soon every student is going to have a smart phone with them at all times.  Yes, they can be a problem, but so can scalpels, and bio teachers regularly give those out for class activities.  We just need to incorporate the positive uses of phones often enough that the negative uses are less visible and disruptive.  I’m not sure that’s totally possible, but it’s worth attempting.  Every student coming to class equipped with their own personal computer might be distracting, but there has to be a  giant, brilliant silver lining there, and if we don’t look for it, we’ll be doing a big disservice to our students.

PollEverywhere, StudyBoost, and Remind101 are a couple of the uses other than varied research or a replacement calculator/dictionary.  These are good.  They are a start.  But how much can you really use these tools in class and how do you monitor content when students are using phones “for class?”  Are we supposed to trust them? Hahaha.  Well that would be great and I think it definitely is getting better as digital citizenship and responsibility are explained and encouraged to youth, but we know that bullying and other concerns are still there.  Maybe we’re just worried they will get worse if we open the floodgates by incorporating them into class?  Well playing ostrich and hoping things will get better usually doesn’t work, so…if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Early this year, a student survey in Ontario revealed that 72% of students don’t think cell phones have a place in classrooms as educational tools.  Of course they wouldn’t.  These are their tools, they should be used for their reasons, like spelling dirty words with numbers (or whatever students do).  As Alec pointed out in class today, you make cell phones into a learning tool and BAM, cool factor goes to zero, or at the very least makes the phone seem a little less taboo.  And boy howdy, do people crave things that are taboo.

So, cells in the classroom.  Any ideas, thoughts, questions or quandaries?

1 comment
  1. On your last point – so few students have had an opportunity to see the real power behind their SmartPhone as an educational device. This is such a waste as so much potential is just sitting there being wasted. I hope that you get a chance to help change this.

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