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Cell Phones in Schools – The Great Debate
With today’s technological advances making cell phones pervasive in almost every aspect of people’s lives, it’s no surprise that cell phones in schools have become a hotly debated topic. There are advocates on both sides: some argue that cellphones are an inappropriate distraction during school hours, others embrace students’ familiarity with them and use them in class. While the jury is still out, both sides have some intriguing points.
Cell phone advocates claim many advantages to using the devices in educational settings; some of these benefits include:
- Involvement of parents. Students can use cell phones equipped with cameras to take photos of projects they complete in class, such as group projects that only use class time. Generally, in these situations, students do not do any research or assembly of these projects at home, so parents cannot see the result of their children’s efforts in the classroom. Allowing students to use cell phones in this capacity encourages parental involvement in their children’s lives, as well as supporting their educational development.
- Missing task Teachers can implement a buddy system where students email or text each other with details of assignments their friend has missed due to an absence. This will save teachers valuable time that would otherwise be spent putting together make-up packages and instill a sense of responsibility among students for themselves and each other.
- take notes Students who have trouble keeping up in class when taking notes can use their mobile phone’s camera function to take photos of their notes and save them for later study and show to parents or guardians, as well as to colleagues who have lost a part. Teachers can also incorporate note taking into their buddy system for missing assignments, allowing students to forward information missed during class time to absent classmates, and similarly allowing that they receive this information if they are absent.
- Real world tools. Cell phones often have functions such as calculators, which are required in most high school math classes. Using the calculator function on your cell phone can teach students the real-world skill of using what’s at hand to calculate math problems in their everyday lives.
- Focus improvement. Students with cell phones with music capabilities and headphones may use them during homework or independent study periods. Many students find listening to music a relaxing study habit, and studies of learning styles indicate that some students learn best while listening to music while working on problems or reading. Students who feel comfortable while studying are more likely to study longer, more often, and produce more positive results than those who don’t listen to music.
On the other hand, many believe that cell phones will only contribute to already existing problems in schools, such as cheating, disrespecting teachers and staff, and causing trouble among other students; some even cite the possibility of using cell phones for illegal activities during school.
- Cheat on. The use of a mobile phone, regardless of the age of the user or the location from which the phone is used, carries responsibility. Some advocates of banning cell phones in schools claim that using a cell phone’s camera function allows students to cheat on tests by taking pictures of answer keys, test contents, or paper answers from a neighbor
- Disrespect. Students could use their phones for all kinds of classroom shenanigans, including using the audio recording feature to record teachers or other staff members during lectures or other conversations without them realizing the recording Students could then use these recordings to take the speaker’s words out of context and present them in a manipulative light.
- Stirring up trouble. Students can use their cell phones during school to cause trouble among students and bully others. School-related violence and bullying are on the rise, and officials are already busy dealing with troubled students and maintaining order in their institutions; allowing students to use devices such as cell phones during school hours will make these problems easier to perpetrate and harder to control.
- Illegal activities. Students may use cell phones during school to engage in illegal activities, such as making or receiving orders for drug deals, causing students to fight with each other, making and placing bets on sporting or other events forms of gambling, or planning events such as bomb threats and other security breaches.
- distraction Almost all supporters of banning cell phones in schools say that allowing them in class distracts students from their studies. Features such as Internet access and video game capabilities are most frequently cited as the biggest distractions. While the Internet may provide legitimate research capabilities, playing video games provides no educational benefit.
Today there are schools that make use of both policies. Wiregrass Ranch High School in Pasco County uses cell phones in many of its classes, including English, math and social studies. Teachers allow students to use their phones to research literature and authors, calculate math problems, and take photos for class projects, among other tactics. Students in this district say they feel more respected and more confident than students in districts that don’t have that privilege, and they recognize that the devices can help them learn more about their world, both past and present. In the area of behavior management, school teachers no longer have to fight daily with students to put away their cell phones or pay attention during class. Instead, they are integrating cell phone use into their lesson plans, and students are more engaged in class and benefiting from it. Students can take care of their personal business on their cell phones before and after school, as well as during lunch and transition periods, so personal distractions are really a problem. Administrators recognize that some students abuse the privilege and do so. Rules, such as usage restrictions and the removal of other non-mobile phone privileges, are in place to deter potential bogus offers.
Most schools across the country have some sort of ban on cell phones in their districts, primarily because of their connections to illegal activities and their disruptions during classes. Some cite safety issues, saying that students’ easy access to cellphones while on campus doesn’t make them safer in the event of a violent event, even going so far as to say they can complicate the work of emergency responders in this case. These schools also say that easy access to cell phones during the school day only increases rumors and worsens bullying situations among students. As such, many of them operate a “we see it, we take it” policy and notify students and parents of the strict nature of these policies.
Some schools have begun to relax their cell phone policies while others continue to maintain their bans, even tightening their rules prohibiting the presence and use of cell phones while on campus. Both sides have their own clear reasons for maintaining their lines of action, and only time will tell which theory is more successful in educating students.
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