Ban Cellphones in Classrooms?

Cellphones in classrooms has been a great debate since people started carrying ‘brick phones’ and ‘flip phones’. This week, Jill and Tarina argued there should not be phones in the classroom while Alyssa and Skyler fought against the cell phone ban.

Jill and Tarina made four points in their opening video to support cellphones being banned from the classroom:

  1. Cellphones are Distracting
  2. School Devices are Safer
  3. Cellphones Increase Negative Behaviours
  4. Detachment from Personal Device

They provided the video below as an additional source for us classmates. I thought it was a good insight to support their argument of cellphones being a distraction.

Alyssa and Skyler had three main arguments to support their slogan “Don’t make a ban, have a plan!”

  1. Medical and Emergency Use
  2. Educational Purposes
  3. Digital Citizenship

I initially voted that cellphones should not be in the classroom and have no place in the classroom. I stuck with that stance throughout the debate. I work in a primary classroom and most of my kids do not have cellphones. My experiences will be very different than educators with older students. This year I had one student that had a cellphone and when he brought it, the whole world knew about it. Every single child tattled on him and told me about the phone in his pocket. There’s no hiding things in primary classrooms!  I know it’s just an old iPhone that connects to wifi, but it’s funny how my kids know that it’s not allowed in our classroom. One reason I don’t like to have any technology from home is children lose everything. They also break everything. There’s also many kids that have sticky fingers and many things go missing. I have had an iPad stolen from my classroom before so I’m very careful with technology because of past experiences with stolen items. So when a student does bring a cellphone I do take it for the day mainly because I don’t want it to get stolen or misplaced. Most incidents involving kids bringing technology, their parents were not aware of. Our lockers also do not have doors and are in the hallway. Being a primary teacher, I have to be responsible for their belongings. I don’t let them bring toys because they lose them or they get taken and it becomes a problem. I prefer not to have any technology or toys from home because I want to avoid an issue if it gets lost, broken or stolen. Items from home can become a distraction from learning. There’s also the privacy piece- the kids can’t be taking pictures of others and I wouldn’t be able to control that if they brought cellphones. The biggest reason personally for me to not have cellphones in the classroom is, I believe kids need to be present. When they are at school- they are at school. They’re not thinking about their phone and they’re not talking to other people. They should not be playing games on their phones. They are present, they are social, they are hanging out with their classmates and they are learning. In a primary classroom, children are learning to have conversations together, they are bonding, they’re building connections and relationships. Children learn through play and are building their gross and fine motor skills. They play outside at recess are not on a device. I know many students go home and are attached to a screen for the entire night. This is why it’s really hard for me to use lots of technology in class because I don’t want to add to that screen time. Many students need to be taught how to have a conversation. I use a lot of ‘turn and talks’ in my classroom and I make sure to have lots of time where they have to socialize with each other, ask each other questions and play games together. This is an important skill to build at a young age. So personally I have no cell phones in my classroom. Most of my students don’t have cell phones so it’s not something I have to worry about. As Jill and Tarina highlighted, Schools provide lots of technology and those devices are safe for them to use within the class and provide equality in the classroom.

Melinda brought up the point that her kids use phones at lunch time and many problems come out of this. Cellphones may take away the social aspect of school. It may also cause cyberbullying and issues for teachers to deal with which takes away from learning. These moments could also be argued as teachable moments. We don’t want to avoid all problems because students learn from them. Maybe I just like having control but everything has to go through me or the office for parents to even talk to their kids. Again this is because of the young age of students I teach. I believe kids need to practice mindfulness and be able to play, have fun, learn and engage, and not be thinking about what’s in their pocket. I know for me right now teaching at home I find it really hard not to be on my cellphone because it’s right there beside me when I’m working on my computer. I get distracted very easily by my phone and I’ve been working on putting it somewhere far. In the classroom I don’t usually have my cellphone. If I do have my cellphone, I often am thinking about it and thinking about who might have messaged me. If I as an adult struggle with that, I know students would as well. I’ll have it for emergencies but my school doesn’t have recess so all morning I don’t look at my phone and the kids know I don’t look at it until lunchtime. When I do look at it, students know I am checking in with my family or checking emails. I usually verbalize what I am doing on my phone to try and model positive cellphone use. Sometimes I need a break for 10 minutes while they’re watching a Wild Kratts or Magic School Bus episode at lunch. With no recess and doing full-time supervision and lunch room, I sometimes need that time to tap out. This was also in our discussions in the debate. This time can be a nice break from a busy day. I do notice when I have my cellphone out and visible I am less present with students. I do not ever want to be a teacher that is on my phone instead of using the short time we have with them in the day to effectively teach them. I strive to use every moment wisely in my instruction and they deserve to have me not distracted by my phone. I have had to use my phone during instruction at times but I will talk aloud about what I am doing on it.

In my experience, admin plays a big role in cell phone use in the classroom. My first year teaching, there were rules for technology posted in every single classroom including kindergarten. There was absolutely no cellphone use during class and recess. These very strict rules alleviated many issues in the older grades. I also experienced the opposite approach where there were no rules surrounding cellphones in the classroom or school. I saw a huge difference and problems arose when students didn’t have clear guidelines on cellphone use. I’ve always been able to have the same rules within my classroom. When it comes to older students, they need to have some rules for cellphone use. When there was no rules, older learning buddies would come to my classroom to work with the kids and they would be checking their Instagram every 10 minutes. It drove me a bit crazy. I thought this was so wrong for them to be having their cellphones in class. All I saw it as was a distraction but I was looking from the outside in. I didn’t know how it was going within their classrooms or if they were using the phones as learning tools. When I would look outside on the senior side of the playground, I would see kids huddled together on their cellphones. Now we have shifted back to having guidelines around cellphones and students are not allowed to have them outside at recess. I see kids playing, socializing, playing games in the field and this makes me happy. I’m not saying either way is bad, I am writing from what I see in my primary classroom.

I like the model that was shown for students to know how to use their device. Having visuals in the classroom is important.

I understand the positive ways cellphones can be utilized in the classroom. Teachers also can educate students side by side on digital citizenship. Cellphones can definitely make the digital divide visible. Especially when there’s kids that have the newest cellphone and others that are using old ones. They may be embarrassed to bring their phone or to use it in classroom. It may not work to do the tasks they are supposed to complete in class. I don’t think students should ever be expected to bring a cellphone and use it but I think it’s important for them to be taught how to use a cellphone properly. Students can be taught to use their cellphones as a tool in their learning and education. Digital citizenship needs to be taught in our schools so students can learn to use their phones in a positive way and balance their screen time. Skyler and Alyssa made great points and arguments to support their stance. EAL learners were brought up in the discussion. Many of them use cell phones to translate work. This could be argued the other way as well for schools to provide a tool or device for these learners.

I also like the poster from Common Sense Media that is similar to the one above.

Overall I thought the debate was really great and lots of people had good things to say about their experiences. It was fun to research more into this topic and read the articles provided. Again I’m coming from a primary perspective so I do totally agree that you can utilize a phone properly within the classroom. It can be used as a learning tool in older grades. You can teach kids to use it responsibly. Digital citizenship and leadership is so important to be taught in classes. Students who have their cellphones with them in class can learn to balance their cellphone use, socializing with their peers, focusing on the learning and may help them self regulate. But still in my mind I voted to say that cellphones should not be in classrooms mainly because I believe kids need to be present for that whole time and unplug from their devices. I stuck to my original stance on keeping cell phones out of class. The readings did not convince me otherwise but I am continuing to learn and be open about this topic! I see the benefits to both sides!

Thanks for reading my thoughts!

Christina 🙂

Bitmoji Image

Published by christinapatt13

I am a grade 2/3 teacher in Regina, Sask. "The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

4 thoughts on “Ban Cellphones in Classrooms?

  1. I am with you with regard to being present in the classroom, teachers and students alike. Unfortunately, as kids start to have cell phones, they start to feel it’s their right to have it on them at all times, and this is often supported by some parents. By having consistent guidelines across the school, this helps to send the SAME message no matter what classroom you are in. However, I know that some teachers don’t follow these guidelines themselves because they either don’t believe in them or they don’t want to take the time to have those battles with students to reinforce them. In this case, it comes down to the idea of “leading by example”. There is no easy solution to this newfound concern in the classroom but the reality is that it is happening and our approach to addressing it doesn’t always align from classroom to classroom or school to school. Is there a reasonable way for all to benefit?

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  2. Hi Christina,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience! I totally understand why you feel that cell phones should not be present in our schools. Although there are benefits of having cell phones handy, they can certainly cause a LOT of distraction, confusion, and drama. I think it is very important to take into consideration the children’s age. How old should kids be before they get a cellphone? Seeing my 11-year-old going through a lot of pain and hurt feelings caused by Social Media, I think the biggest mistake a parent can make is to give a child a phone before the age of 13. I wish I new this last September. Kids need to reach a certain level of maturity to be able to process and apply the elements of digital citizenship in their everyday lives.

    Thank you,
    Melinda

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  3. It was very interesting to read someones opinion on cellphones in the classroom from someone with a primary view of cellphones. From the experiences that I have in my K-12 school, the youngest that I have seen a student with a cellphone in the classroom is in grade 8. I know that a few students who are younger have cellphones, but I have also never seen or heard of them used them in class. I guess this is why I asked in the group conversation at what age should students have a cellphone. When you talked about one of your students getting “tattled” on by the rest of the students for having a cellphone, I believe that is because of how uncommon they are in elementary. I also think that this is could change in the future, and that cellphones may become more common in elementary schools.

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  4. I really enjoyed reading your take on this subject, especially as a fellow primary teacher. My policies, and reasonings, for cellphones and outside items (such as toys) are very similar to yours. I agree with you on how, in the younger grades (K-4), there are so many skills that students need to learn, such as having conversations and building/maintaining relationships, and these cannot be taught using a cellphone. I also do not allow cellphones in my Grade 1 class for these very reasons. I teach at a school where, unfortunately, a lot of my students are being raised by screens. When they get home they are on their video games, or playing games in their tablets. There really is not a lot of human connections going on, which is really sad. That’s why, for me, I focus on those human relationship skills at school, as they need to learn them somewhere. I do agree that there are positives for using cellphones in the classroom, probably in the higher grades, or maybe even at schools where there is more parent involvement. Thanks for sharing!

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