Debate #6- A Tool or a Distraction? Should Cellphones Be Banned in the Classroom?

In this digital age, we are given the chance to have a very powerful tool in our pocket. A device so powerful that we can communicate to others around the world, share pictures and videos immediately, and have any question answered at the touch of a button. What happens when we give students (who might not be ready to handle such a powerful tool, the ability to use cell phones in the classroom?

As a 5th/6th grade teacher, I only have a handful of students that bring phones to school. We have strict rules put in place, but some try and break them. I have some students that love using their phones, but some that simply bring them to school but never take it out of their backpacks. I have a lot of students who bring their phones to school and remember to ask me to use them for projects, reference photos, or a quick translation. Some students know how to use their phones at school, but…some don’t.

Agree: Yes, Cellphones Should Be Banned in the Classroom

Echo, Lovepreet and Amanpreet started us off with a video explaining the many reasons why cellphones should be banned in the classrooms. Here are the points that I find happen in my own classroom or at my own school.

1. Cellphones cause distractions- Cellphones are addicting, it’s no surprise there. We all spend way too much time on our phones every day. As adults, most of us have the ability to turn it off and work when we know we have something we need to accomplish. For kids, they might struggle a bit more with that. Many children are so distracted by their phones when they are next to them. It’s hard to pay attention to a teacher or your work when your cellphone is on your desk or even in your backpack. ( games and social media are much more fun!) Gary Mason talks about this in their article: “If their phone is in sight, it becomes the priority for the majority of kids”. Even thinking about the notifications you might or might not have can be distracting. What’s interesting is a lot of parents text their kids while in the classroom since it’s easier, but then this causes a distraction. (This happens in my class). But like Mason says: ” Kids have to be able to part from their phones in certain situations.” (ex: school).

2. Cellphones are detrimental to health and other skill development- Even though we try our best to not allow students to be on social media at school, some of them can slip through the cracks. Social media is a very big cause of anxiety, depression, and uncertainty. Social media puts a lot of pressure on kids. We also can’t forget about cyberbullying and other unacceptable behaviours in school caused by cellphones. Smale et al. explain that: “Cell phones in schools could contribute to increases in written and verbal threats due to these devices’ inconspicuous nature, especially when cyberbullying is compared to more traditional, overt forms of bullying”. Cellphones can also be the cause of decreased skill development and poor cognitive behaviour like memory, poor multitasking, focus, and attention span. I find my students to want to finish their work faster or want to be the first one to grab a computer so they don’t listen or don’t do their work correctly.

3. Cellphones can cause education inequality/widens the gap- Many kids are given their grown ups old phone as a way for kids to communicate with them. Many kids might not have data and must connect to wifi. Some are given a cellphone at an older age or as a well deserved reward. However, some kids are given a brand new phone, with data, at a very young age. In the classroom, some teachers ask their students to use their cellphones for homework and projects if there aren’t enough cellphones. But some kids don’t have phone to do that. Thinking about my classroom ( which is on the younger side), we only have 18 chromebooks, but I have 27 students. Due to technological issues at the moment, I am down to 14 laptops. Due to this, I have to ask students to pair up or…. use their cellphones if they have one. But, we need to think of the kids that don’t have access to a cellphone, especially at an older age when society thinks every kid has a phone. Giving out projects that need technology or more specifically a cellphone can cause a gap and add even more inequalities in education.

I really like the phrase that the agree side added ” Disconnect to connect”. Kids need to get off their phones and connect with the people in their classroom! There is so much to learn and enjoy without technology.

Disagree- No, Cellphones Should Not Be Banned in the Classroom

Leona, Reid, and Bret explained that with proper implementation and digital literacy, cellphones can be great tool to have in the classroom.

1. Cellphones facilitate new ways to learn- In my classroom, we have been able to use cellphones to make dances, record podcasts, look at reference photos for art, and work on some great projects! So much can be done with technology that gives students a new way to learn. They have the opportunity to have questions answered on topics that interest them. We can take something that is less interesting to learn and make it new and fun. Breanna Carels says: “With a changed mindset and improved policies, teachers can begin to plan how they will incorporate cell phones as academic tools”. Think about educational apps like Prodigy, Blooket, or Kahoot have done! They have made some of my students disinterested in math happily revise their math concepts.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

2. Cellphones allow for more accessibility-Cellphones in the classroom have allowed students to use tools they need to succeed. Cellphones can be used as assistive technology to allow some children more freedom in their learning. Students can use the magnifier, assistive reading and writing, the calculator, and even music to drown out distractions. For those with disabilities, cellphones and technology in the classroom can really help a child succeed. Cellphones also give parents the sense of safety for their children while at school. It has also allowed for quicker communication between everyone at school. Charise Rohm Nulsen talk about this in their article: “Knowing that you can reach loved ones in a heartbeat thanks to mobile phones during school hours can feel more important than ever in the current climate.”

3. Cellphones are an integral part of life in the 21st century-Jason Ohler has a great article about making our students live two lives- the one at home ( that allows technology) and the one at school ( that most times, has a ban on cellphones). Ohler says: “it is precisely our job as educators to help students live one, integrated life, by inviting them to not only use their technology at school, but also talk about it within the greater context of community and society”. We are living in the digital age. Shouldn’t we make it so that technology is integrated in all aspects of our students’ lives? If you asked me to only use technology at home, but not at work… that wouldn’t fly. Most of my communication, planning, and marking is online. Why are we asking students to have such separated lives? That won’t teach them how to balance technology and life as they grow.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Final Thoughts

For me, the most important part of this debate is understanding that we can have cellphones in the classroom IF policies and rules are set in place. We also need to realize that if we are allowing cellphones in the classroom, digital literacy must be taught as well. To start off with this debate, I was leaning towards disagree, but I found myself quite a bit in the middle. At the end, I am mostly disagreeing and I think cellphones should not be banned. The amount of times my students have used their cellphones to due to lack of devices in the classroom and to learn in new ways like making podcasts have definitely made a difference in how I teach in my classroom. I have the ability to do so many fun projects! I also like teaching my students that cellphones can be used as a great tool. However, the agree side had some great points on how it can cause harm and distractions int he classroom. But I really do think that with strict rules, we can show our students how cellphones can be used to their advantage both at home and at school.

  • Does your school allow cellphones at school?
  • For educators with older grades, do you find cellphones to be a problem?

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