Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cellphones in the Classroom

Yesterday I took away my first cell phone.  I told a student to put it away and that if I saw it one more time I was going to give it to my mentor teacher for the rest of the school day.  I walked away and two minutes later I saw it out again, so I took it away.   Cell phones are a constant issue in my mentor’s classroom and this was the first time I really took action.  I feel like I’m constantly telling kids to put their phones away, which I hate doing, so this made me think about how I could make cellphones part of learning. 

This reminds me of something Rory brought up earlier in the year.  We are living in an age where whatever we as teachers do in the classroom has to be so engaging that students won’t want to have their phones out in the first place.  While I agree with this, it sounds like such a daunting task.  I’d like to think that I’m an engaging educator, but this seems tiring.  One solution would be to use apps in the classroom and integrate cellphones into instruction. Then again, I toy with the issue of equity in my classroom.  From a survey I administered early in the semester, I know that all students do not own smartphones. 

I also think students need to learn how to be respectful with technology.  When you hang out with friends or family, it is not very polite to be glued to your cellphone.  Is this how kids are when they’re out of school also?  I also think about what is going to happen when students apply for jobs or for college.  Will they still be distracted by their cellphones and how will this impact their job or future academic performance? 

While I don’t have the answer now, I think there needs to be a balance between using cellphones for instruction and putting them away when it is not appropriate.  Just as we need to teach students how to manage their online life, we need to teach students how to manage their real life with ubiquitous tech use. 


  1. Rachael,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about cell phones and use of them in the classroom! And way to go! I'm sure it wasn't an easy/fun task to police a students' cell phone use during class. Having gone to a high school that was cell phone-free, I can remember my teachers spending a lot of their time and energy monitoring students' cell phone. Now, I find myself in a placement with a BYOD policy and with a MT who doesn't monitor phone use. It's striking to see the difference in practice, but wonder if this is a policy that is possible everywhere. I like that you talked about teaching students about responsible and courteous use of phones. That seems to dig more deeply into the heart of the issue at hand in most academic, social and professional settings. People who are distracted from what's happening in front of them because of the phone in their hand are missing out on so much and are depriving others of their valuable insights! It seems as though responsible phone use in schools would be the ideal, but, like you said, there are many things to consider before allowing students free use of these devices. Thanks for posting! Lots of food for thought!

  2. You go Miss Malerman! I am so glad you took that phone away! Way to lay down the law. I think your class may benefit from having a cell phone system like they have at my placement school. The teachers hang a red, yellow, or green sign in the window of their classroom. The students see the color and know the protocol to follow. Green means they can have the phone out all they want, yellow means they can have it out for educational purposes, and red means if the phone is out the teacher will take it. So far it has worked really well in my classroom. I have had to give a few warnings but have yet to take away my first one! Luckily the kids are very respectful of the rules.

    What are the rules about cell phones at your placement? Are there class rules or school wide rules the students are expected to follow.

    I am not sure how much I will incorporate the use of cell phones into my classroom. I know there are quite a few students who do not have any type of phone. I always thought I would use the remind101 app but have recently rethought this. I don't know if its fair to text homework reminders to your students knowing only half of them will get the text.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Hey Rachael! For future reference, if you turn in the cell phone to the attendance office, they will call the student's parents to come pick up his/her cell phone. It's a little extreme, but just something to keep in mind in case things escalate any further. I remember during JumpStart, one of the students wrote a poem about how her cell phone was the most important thing to her and that she couldn't live without being able to text her friends. It's hard for me to relate because I didn't even own a cell phone until I was 18 years old and bought one for myself. I think allowing cell phone use in class depends on the context. Just how Rory and Jeff ask us to close our laptops during instruction so we can pay attention, I feel that cell phones should be put away when we want students to be on task or engaged in the lesson. As you probably already know, no matter how engaging a teacher is, it's really difficult to get every student in a classroom engaged.