Cellphones in the Classroom?

Hello everyone!

So unfortunately due to some unforeseen family circumstances, this blog post is a little late. This blog post is about the EDTC 400 debate that took place two Tuesdays ago about using cellphones in the classroom. Now, this topic is heavily debated in schools as it is since cellphones are extremely integrated into the lives of adults and students.

Since this topic is so heavily debated, there were three positions we could choose from; cell phones should always be banned, cellphones should never be banned, and cellphones should be banned in elementary school and allowed in high school. Due to having three options to choose from for this debate, we had three debaters; Kendall, Cody and Tiana. Kendall was on the side that cellphones should always be banned in classrooms. Cody was on the side that cellphones should never be banned in classrooms. Tiana was in the middle of Cody and Kendall and was on the side that cellphones should be banned in elementary classrooms, but should be allowed in high school classrooms.

Pre-Debate Vote

Before we began the debate, as we usually do, we started with the beginning poll. The image of the pre-debate poll is below. At the beginning almost everyone was either on the side that cellphones should never be banned in classrooms or that cellphones should be only allowed in high school classrooms. There was only a vote of two for Kendall’s side that cell phones should be banned in classroom’s everywhere.

Beginning the Debate

Kendall stated the debate off with her introductory video, which you can watch below if you would like. Kendall had four main points to back up her side of the debate. Kendall stated that cellphones were:

  1. Distracting
  2. Disrespectful
  3. Disruptive
  4. Dangerous

Kendall made some very good points in her video and the articles that she asked us to read really backed up her points. One of the statements that really stuck out to me at the beginning of her video was “that on average, students check their cellphones 11 times per day, which equates to 20% of class time”. I found it crazy that this much class time can be lost through cellphone usage.

After Kendall’s video, the class watched Cody’s video, which is also below. Cody’s stance is a stark contrast from Kendall’s stance. Cody is on the side that cellphones should always be allowed in the classroom. Cody had three main points:

  1. Cellphones are huge parts of society and should not be forgotten in schools
  2. They are useful tools that are instantly available
  3. There are inquiry benefits that cellphones offer.

These three major points really supported Cody’s stance that cellphones should be allowed in schools and should not be banned. Along with the video, Cody gave the class a few short readings that also backed up his stance that cellphones should never be banned. One of the biggest points that stood out to me from Cody’s argument and from reading the article “A Blanket Ban on Cellphones Would Not Be Smart” was that cellphones allow students easy internet access that enables students to easily find information, collaborate with peers online and communicate with the teacher.

After Cody’s video, the class watched the third and final video made by Tiana. Tiana was in the middle of Cody and Kendall. Her side to the debate was that cellphones should only be allowed in high schools and should be banned in elementary schools. Tiana made a video explaining both sides of her stance, which is below. On one hand, Tiana had three reasons for why cellphones should be banned in elementary school. They are:

  1. Physical health risks
  2. Mental health risks
  3. Cyberbullying

On the other hand, Tiana had three reasons why cellphones should be allowed in high schools. The three reasons are:

  1. They prepare students for adulthood
  2. Bans would be difficult to regulate
  3. They provide diverse learning strategies and opportunities.

Tiana’s video was very compelling to me and I agreed with a lot of her statements. I think there is a time and place for cellphone usage in classrooms and I am not sure that I think elementary schools should be having cellphones. I also really enjoyed reading the article “Adventures with Cell Phones” that Tiana asked the class to read. I did not think cellphones could actually be integrated into a classroom up until I read the example at the beginning of the article with students texting in their responses to the teacher.

The Debate      

I won’t get into much of the details of the debate because I know many of the people reading this blog are my fellow EDTC 400 classmates, but I will give a quick recap of some of the things that I remember and that really stood out to me.

At the beginning of the actual debate, I brought up a comment that my brother made after watching some of the beginning of the EDTC 400 debate. I know some of the people in the debate mentioned using cellphone parking garages as a way to manage student cell phone usage. My younger brother is currently in high school and some of his teachers use cellphone parking garages as a way to ensure that students are not on their phone in class. My brother stated that even though they have the parking garages, most students do not use them and still go on their cellphones in class. This sparked a bit of a debate with the class about other effective ways to manage student cellphone usage. Tiana and Cody have more classroom experience with students than I do and they mentioned that they did not always call out a student that was on their phone if they were not distracting other students.

In the debate, the class also discussed the issue of having differing cellphone policies throughout schools. Many of the students in EDTC 400, including myself, had a cellphone at some point in their high school career and they remembered the frustration of having different rules with different teachers. As a class, we discussed this issue of having different cellphone rules in classrooms causes confusion for students and can lead to conversations such as “well Mr. or Mrs. So and So lets us have cellphones in class, why don’t you?”, etc. As a group we stressed the importance of having a school wide policy that is consistent so these conversations do not happen.

One other topic that really stood out to me during the debate was a topic that has come up many times in other debates. Not every student will have access to technology. Kiera brought up this comment. She stated that she did not have a cellphone in elementary school and if the teacher would have asked the class to pull out their cellphones to do something, she would be out of luck or left out. Not every student will have access to technology at a young age, or in high school, due to various reasons. Teachers must be mindful of what technology their students have and determine if asking students to use their cellphones in the classroom would leave some students out.

Post-Debate Vote

After having a really good debate on a very controversial topic, the class participated in the final vote. In the end the votes changed slightly. More people voted for having cellphones only being allowed in high school and being banned all together. A picture of the vote is below.

My Thoughts

Going into the debate, I thought that cellphones should only be allowed in high schools. After the debate, my position stayed the same, but I left the debate with a lot more knowledge about cellphone usage in classrooms. Prior to this debate, I have only had the conversation about cellphones in the classroom with my friends and family. I think it was extremely interesting to have this debate with other educators, especially those with experience teaching in the classroom, rather than just being students.

I think that there is a time and place for cellphones. I, like probably many other people, find my cellphone extremely distracting. I know when my phone buzzes that I want to check it right away, regardless of what I am doing. I think it is difficult for me to ask my students to not be distracted by their cellphones, if I am distracted easily by mine. As discussed in many articles, including “Should schools welcome cell phones in class?”, “Cell Phones In The Classroom: Learning Tool or Distraction”, and “The Disadvantages of Mobile Phones in Schools”, cellphones can be extremely distracting and can take up a lot of a student’s attention; attention that should be spent on school related topics.

Even though cellphones can be extremely distracting, they also have many benefits. As discussed in “Cell Phones In The Classroom: Learning Tool or Distraction”, cellphones offer the option of having educational apps, easy access to information and access to digital information. Cellphones can be great tools for students in schools with limited laptop and computer access. Many students, especially those in high school, have a cellphone that they can easily pull out to search needed information faster than opening up a laptop and researching it on the computer. Cellphones also offer completely new ways for students to present information to teachers as described in the article “Adventures with Cell Phones”.

I think there are many pros and cons of having cellphones in classrooms, as discussed in the debate. I do not think it is fair to students to have cellphones stay in their back pack forever. I think elementary students are still too young to have cellphones in the classroom and I do not think cellphones should be regularly incorporated into elementary classrooms. I think laptops and using computers is a better technology for elementary students to use. I think allowing high school students to use cellphones in the classroom for educational purposes is a good use of class time. Most high school students have a cellphone on them and using them for quick internet searches is a much better use of class time, rather than finding the laptop carts and using laptops (which would take probably double the class time to find the same information).

I do not think there should be a free for all with cellphones in classrooms. I like the idea of having a cellphone parking garage. It is a great way to ensure students leave their phones away from them during class time, while still letting students be confident their cellphone is safe. Having parking garages also ensures that students can quickly come up and use their phone when they need to find information or if they want to listen to music during class time.

Allowing cellphones into the classroom is and will continue to be a highly debated topic. I think cellphones offer many benefits for high school students, including quick access to information, music capabilities, and collaboration opportunities. I do not think cellphones should be consistently integrated into elementary classrooms and teachers should use laptops or computers instead for technology purposes. Cellphones in the classroom were around when I was in school and they will continue to be in classrooms when I am teaching. Following the school guidelines and ensuring that my students are not distracted by their cellphones during valuable instructional time is an important step that I must take as a teacher.

Thanks for reading my blog post! (I apologize for the length) What are your thoughts on cellphones in the classroom? Leave a comment below.

Ashley Osachoff

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