“Of course you can’t!” Or could you…
Being currently out on a practicum as a High School student teacher, I have encountered differing views regarding the use of cell phones in classrooms. While some teachers consider those objects as a nuisance, a distraction for students that is hard to control, others have begun to integrate it for research purposes. Cell phones and iPods can be an easy means of accessing the internet and its endless resources without having to move to a computer lab. Although I was initially reluctant to accept this as a sufficient reason to permit the use of cell phones in classrooms, I have decided to make some research and have discovered many reasons why these devices may now have their rightful place in High School classrooms.
Cell phones, being powerful search engines, can indeed be seen as a fit replacement for traditional computer labs; they can be used from any classroom, and offer the big advantage of being owned by nearly all High School students. As Lisa Nielsen wrote in her blog article, “in a time when schools are facing tightening budgets, using technology that is readily available is logical”.
Another way to use cell phones in class is to adapt quizzes or polls to modern times, in the process making them more interesting for students. As I read in a blog article by MindShift, the program called Poll Everywhere allows students to ask questions which the students will answer through texting. This allows the teacher to collect answers easily without spending on an expensive system of clickers, and gives the opportunity to shy students to answer quizzes without having to speak in front of the group. The teacher can even give the best answers anonymously.
There are many other uses that can be made of cell phones for academic purposes. They can be used to record classes or to take pictures of some notes, and Robert Earl, in his article published online in The Altlantic, suggests that they can also be very good tools on field trips. However, most teachers agree that cell phones have all these positive sides. The reason why they are still banned in a lot of schools is that they also have some downsides.
One of the major worries concerning cell phones is that students may use them for non-academic purposes. In an article published by The Guardian, Eddie Falshaw makes an interesting comment on this issue: “The worry for us, is that the phones will be used more for social purposes, but that is where the education comes in”. His point is that it is the teachers’ role to make sure this doesn’t happen, and to get students to use their cellphones the right way. Schools should evolve and adapt to new technologies, not ban them because of the disagreements they might bring. As Meg Ormiston wrote in his article on Teach Hub, “we didn’t ban pens in our schools because students can pass notes during class”.
Although cell phones make class management more difficult, I believe they should be embraced as a new difficulty that can be dealt with through other means than rejection. After all, school is meant to prepare students for real life, with all it contains. Ramsey Mussalam, quoted in another blog article by MindShift, makes a statement that I find very interesting: “I’m here to serve my students. If we can leverage cell phones in a way that’s meaningful, I’m going to do it.”