Cell phones are just an extension of a technology forward classroom

Alexandra Rodriguez, Staff Writer

Having a teacher reprimand you about having your phone out in class is nothing new. Most teachers firmly believe that cell phones in the classroom decrease classroom engagement. However, if used properly, cell phones, much like any other technological device, can benefit instruction. The irony is, as school districts spend astronomical amounts of money and time to implement increased technology in the classroom, this powerful device remains underutilized and vilified.

In multiple classrooms around campus, there is a continuous condemnation of using cell phones during class. Some teachers have an inflexible ‘no phone’ policy implemented, while others offer a more mutual trust rule for their students. Although there are many variations in teacher policies regarding cell phone use, like most things, some work and some don’t.

What is fairly universal is the realization that cell phones can potentially distract students during classroom instruction. A common problem arises from this realization: teachers who believe students are distracted due to cell phones may spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to banish phones, or even students using them, from their classrooms. At that point, teachers themselves may be distracted by the tug of war required to ensure they never catch a glimpse of a cell phone in their classroom ever again.

However, there are ways to harness the power of technology and reap the benefits of cell phones in the classroom. Though a considerable number of teachers consider cell phones the bane of their existence and would rather do away with them altogether, others have integrated them into instruction or at least allowed for their conditional presence. Even the most technophobic teacher will have to realize, as time goes on, continuous innovation in this area will be unavoidable. Training students to use phones properly is a useful skill for future careers in this day and age. Instead of a no use phone policy, taking the time to implement different ways of using phones and other forms of technology in a lecture or lesson plan can be entirely beneficial to both teachers and students.

Most educators have already embraced the benefits and improvements of using technology in their classroom. According to a study done by Education Week, 70% of teachers believe that technology enriches the classroom experience for teachers and students, therefore raising classroom engagement. In this day and age, it is rare that a student doesn’t have a phone or access to the internet. So, if most have it why not use it to do some good?

Being familiar with basic phone apps, social media platforms and computer programs can greatly benefit a student moving into the real world. These skills are extremely useful in a workforce that is greatly increasing its reliance on technology. Not only does it create useful skills, but it’s also a source for an endless amount of current information and the pressure is on to be able to access this information using a variety of devices. According to teachers (K-12), 74% said that using technology enables students to expand on content they use in lectures and lesson plans. Digital content decreases the past problem of access as well, as opposed to the standard textbooks that may be lost or left at home. Having online access to texts or curriculum is not only more convenient but less of a hassle as well instead of having to carry around one or multiple textbooks.

Although most students are on board with the idea of integrating technology into the classroom there are still those teachers who can’t let go of their love for the paper and pen. Unfortunately, this same group of teachers often see themselves as the most committed to learning and perceive teachers who have less stringent cell phone regulations as lax. No matter how dedicated or well-meaning, educators with this attitude need to realize that getting used to using technology in any classroom setting is imperative while preparing students to move from school life to the real world. More than 48 states support online learning and mounting research points to the correlation between classroom technology and increased learning outcomes. The looming problem is finding the funding to create digital classrooms. In this environment, the oft-ignored bridge is the cell phone most teens already own and refuse to put away during a class period.

Investing money to provide relevant technology in education provides clear benefits, not only for students but for a society that needs to tech-literate professionals in all fields. Essentially cells have become a portable computer and with school Wi-Fi, can be used cost-free to enhance instruction in classrooms. If schools simply offer supplemental devices for students with no phones, dead charges, or limited data, we’ve got a cheaper, tech-forward approach to instruction in every class. Yes, cell phones present a problem in terms of off-task use, but so do tablets, Chromebooks, computers, not to mention the old school method of whispering to the person next to you or passing notes on paper.

Our school cell phone policy still deems cells as nothing more than a distraction and disciplinary measures to combat this are often more disruptive to learning than the phones themselves. Cell phones are more than a device that lowers classroom engagement – they are a tool to increase curriculum engagement at best, and an opportunity for training students on educational or professional decorum at worst. Integrating phones into the classroom properly can be more beneficial than a complete outright ban. Our school policy and teacher restrictions should be more aligned with the college and professional world which stresses adroit cell capability and appropriate use.

Most teachers who have a more relaxed, mutual trust policy report spending less time reprimanding students for inappropriate cell use. They also say this builds responsibility and establishes a better relationship with the teacher. It’s time we accept the inevitability of these little devices in class and look for big ways to integrate them into everyday lessons.