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Cell Phones in the Classroom: Friend or Foe?

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Teaching and Learning
July 21, 2015

My cell phone lost me today, but no worries–I didn’t panic! I kept telling myself that I’ve only had this electronic device, which connects me professionally and personally, for less than 15 years. Not quite sure when I did get my first cell phone, but at the time I am sure I never thought I would be able to take selfie photos and receive the latest pics of my new grandchild all on a device that fits into my pocket. These devices (and now we have added glasses and watches to the mix) have caused many a teacher and administrator moments of angst at school and have led many to consider the need for a school-wide cell phone policy.

During one of our recent PD sessions here at OPSRC, educators from all types of schools–rural, urban charters, and a private school–were exchanging approaches to handling these devices in the educational setting. Comments ranged from “Zero Tolerance” to having a 10-15 minute “charge up time” as a reward for students to catch up on their messages, use social media or play a game if they had been focused all morning (this behavior had to be school-wide for this reward to happen). Some schools embrace the technology rather than fight it by integrating different apps into the curriculum.

Everyone did agree that whatever the policy is, it MUST be universal throughout the school as part of the culture. Therefore, EVERY staff person needs to know it and re-enforce it. NOW is the perfect time to have this conversation among school leaders (both administrators AND classroom teachers, since they usually have to deal with the policy on a daily basis).

Here are some links to resources and documents that might give you some ideas of how best to deal with this ever-growing challenge, whether you are pro-cell phones in school or against them.

• American Psychological Association resource 

• U.S. News article on cell phone etiquette

 Nat’l Education Association’s tips on using smartphones as learning tools 

• nClass cell phone policy examples 

• Washington Post commentary on effects of smartphones on educational focus

What is your experience using phones in the classroom?

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