As teachers, we are all dealing with the issue of cell phones in our classrooms. The question is: do we (try) to ban them or do we find a way to utilize them?
Thankfully, about 3 years ago our new principal (who is a big proponent of technology) changed the school policy to allow cell phones to come out of hiding. She allows teachers to make their own decisions about their classroom but allows students to use them in the commons areas. I say thankfully because I had been allowing them in my class for a while by then! I told my students – “Shhhh!! Don’t tell anyone!” That may have been why I didn’t have too many problems! I like to think that it was because I didn’t make a big deal out of it and they quickly got over the novelty of it. Dean Shareski, in his blog post, seems to agree with me.
Having had this conversation with many colleagues, I’ve finally figured out that the ones who have the most problems with cell phone use are the ones who insist on the strictest “no phones” policies. Now I’m not saying that it should be a “use it whenever you want” policy but somewhere in the middle. Set up a set of expectations for their use which includes: how (information you need but can’t through the filter?, look a quick question?, listen to music while working individually?, and when (NOT during instructional time unless asked to, during quiet work time, during collaboration with classmates) and what (no, you can’t check Facebook, Snapchat, etc, no, you can’t text your friend about plans that night, yes, you may listen to music with your earbuds!). Give the students parameters and then trust them to make the right choice. Of course some are still going to choose not to live up to the expectations and in that case there need to be consequences in place. I have found the worst consequence I can give a student who chooses to use their phone unwisely in class was to take the phone (with parent permission) for the rest of the day. Trust me….it hurts them more than it hurts us!
Bottom line: cell phones are mobile learning devices. We need to utilize them as one more tool to keep students engaged because let’s face it, we can fight them and take away valuable instruction time or we can harness the tools our students use in their everyday lives!
What are your thoughts on cell phones in YOUR class? Are they the bane of your existence or the new tool in your instructional arsenal?