I logged into Associated Content today and saw an interesting assignment on the desk. “Does Your Child Bring a Cell Phone to School?” The assignment specifically looked for parent’s to share their views on whether cell phones should be allowed in schools or not. But why not listen to an educator – someone who knows first hand how cell phones impact schools.
While cell phones can certainly be distracting, that alone is no reason to ban them outright from schools and classrooms. Here are my top five reasons why cell phones should be allowed in schools.
Before and After School. From the moment NYC put an outright ban in cell phones in schools, this was my number one concern. Even if you don’t allow kids to have cell phones out in the classroom, what’s the justification for banning them outright from the building?
Kids have places to go before and after school. Maybe they take a little brother or sister to school first. Maybe they head to work afterwards. Maybe they stop at a friend’s house on the way home. For safety reasons and a parent’s peace of mind, it is only right that a student should have access to a phone before and after the school day.
It’s Futile. Let’s face it. Kids will have phones and iPods whether you want them to or not. Why create an outright ban, set a strict standard for enforcement, and then tie yourself in to cracking down on these rules?
There are lots of problems that educators need to deal with. Why create problem behavior by defining regular behavior as a “problem”? It creates tension in the building and diverts educators/administrators attention from real problems.
Promote Maturity. Rather than trying to enforce a futile ban, it would be wiser to try and promote mature use of these devices. When a child leaves school – to go to work, to go to college, to go out in public – they need to know how to appropriately use these devices.
Walk into a college lecture hall today, and you’ll see an overabundance of laptops, cellphones, and tablets. How are students going to know how to responsibly use them in a college classroom, if we don’t allow them to use them in a K-12 classroom? It would be much wiser to allow them in the environment, and teach students how to monitor their own use of them so that they aren’t distracting themselves from the ongoing instruction.
Communication Is Important. Sometimes, there are times when you need to get in touch with a kid. Parents may have an urgent question. I’m an advisor for the yearbook club, and I have a number of students that work for me to take pictures and create the book.
If I need to know something from a kid, I don’t hesitate to text them while they’re in class. I trust that they can make the responsible choice – answer the text or wait until there’s an appropriate time. Likewise, a parent may need to know something from a kid but doesn’t want to go through the more intrusive route of contacting the main office and having the child escorted to a phone.
They Have Real Educational Uses. The last item on the list is also the most recent reason why cell phones should not be banned. Ten years ago, you could make an argument that cell phones had no educational purpose; not so today.
While we’re busy trying to get computers and laptops into classrooms, most kids are already bringing handheld computers with Internet connections with them. Want to look something up? Whip out your phone. You can also use them to create classroom response systems (Poll Everywhere), to access news articles, listen to podcasts, watch instructional videos, and much more. It’s up to the teacher to decide when and how best to use these devices, but they should certainly be an option for more tech savvy educators.
Bottom Line. We should stop this futile attempt to enforce a blanket ban on cell phones in schools. Instead, we should help students learn how to use them responsibly, and we should allow educators to use them in innovative and productive ways.