Cell Phones in Class? Many Schools are Saying Yes

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Cell Phones in Class? Many Schools are Saying Yes
We examine revised cell phone policies across the country that allow students to use phones during school hours – and whether those new policies are a good idea.
Cell phones have become an artificial appendage to many adults today, and teenagers have followed suit on this trend. However, many middle and high schools have adopted serious restrictions on cell phone use during school hours, with some schools still requiring students to keep cell phones completely out of sight as long as classes are in session. Other schools are beginning to lift many of those restrictions, as teachers realize the learning potential inside these small handheld devices. While the specific rules depend on each school, the overall consensus appears to be that cell phones, when used properly, can enhance the academic experience.
 

The Cell Phone Controversy

When students first began carrying cell phones, educators saw them primarily as a distraction in the classroom. Even more concerning was the fact that some students quickly learned how to use these devices to cheat on tests in class. The kneejerk reaction by many schools was to simply ban cell phones altogether, creating policies that would allow for the confiscation of phones that were seen in halls or classrooms during school hours.

However, Mind Shift reports that as phones become a more prevalent feature in daily life, some schools are rethinking their strict policies. Students themselves are beginning to lament that cell phone restrictions are one of the greatest obstacles in bringing technology into the classroom, according to this publication. As more teachers find uses for those tiny computing devices, some are beginning to side with the students on this issue as well.
 
The Atlantic lists some of the potential benefits of cell phones in the classroom, including:
  • Phones provide a high tech, interactive alternative to lectures that fail to engage all students
  • Phones can be used to note study reminders the student can refer to at home
  • Students can use phones to collaborate with one another
  • Phones can help students connects with those in other schools or even other countries
  • Students can record information and video onto phones to be referenced later
While the benefits are numerous, there is little argument that there are drawbacks to cell phones in class – primarily in their ability to distract students from their studies. The Atlantic also reported that teen girls send an average of 100 texts per day. In schools that ban the use of cell phones during school hours, more than half the students reported to receiving or sending texts during the school day. When phones were allowed, that percentage went even higher. In the midst of these numbers, schools are striving to maintain a balance between welcoming technology into the classroom and preventing major distractions that thwart the learning process.
 
Norfolk Public Schools Loosen Slightly
 
One Virginia public school district that has enforced one of the stricter cell phone policies in the past has loosened their rules somewhat this year. According to the Granby High School newspaper Spectator, the district will now allow students to bring their cell phones to school with them, as long as they stay locked up on student lockers during school hours. This is a break from the past policy that prohibited cell phones at school completely.
 
Students who bring their phones to school may use the devices after school hours to alert parents and peers to changes in plans after school. If phones are seen prior to that time, the device will be confiscated by school staff for two days. At that time, a parent of the owner of the phone may come in to pick it up. A second infraction will result in the phone taken for a month. Additional infractions will mean confiscation for the rest of the school year.
 
Lunchtime Use Now Allowed in Fairfax County
 
Another Virginia school district has relaxed former cell phone restrictions further, by allowing students to use their phones between classes and at lunchtime. According to the Mount Vernon Patch, Fairfax County students are now allowed to carry their phones with them and make texts or calls when they are not in the classroom. If teachers allow it, the phones may be pulled out during class as well, if their use is a proven enhancement to the learning experience. For example, an English teacher may allow students to look up words in their literary works they are reading, or a math teacher might encourage students to use the calculator function on their phones.
 
“The world we live in is based on technology,” Patricia Dutchie, a principal in Fairfax County, told the Patch. “That is what the students live on, and for students to be able to use their electronics during the day relaxes them.”
 
King’s Fork High School Embraces Technology
 
A third county in Virginia has moved beyond accepting cell phone use to actually embracing it in some classrooms. Teachers at King’s Fork High School in Suffolk County are showing students how to use the devices to access information on the Internet, calculate complex math formulas and even play subject-related games. The school has allowed teachers to bring the phones into their instruction time and has even provided training for teachers on how to do so effectively, according to Hampton Roads.
 
Technology is an avoidable part of our culture today, and the institutions that are training students up to be the leaders of the future must learn how to bring technology into the classroom. It appears that at least for some teachers, cell phones provide the necessary tools to create tech-savvy students ready to embrace technology and use it to their full advantage.

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