Should Cellphones Be Banned in the Classroom?

This is one debate that I entered strongly agreeing. I have had to deal with many issues in the office that have involved cellphones over the years. Videos taken of teachers while they are teaching and then posted to group chats mocking and making fun of them, texts that said hurtful things about other students, pictures taken of others when they didn’t approve, stolen phones, lost phones, the list goes on. There were days when cellphones were the constant in many issues I would deal with. Both teams did an excellent job of presenting their arguments which really challenged me to think and reflect on my opinion.

Jill and Tarina presented the agreeing side and their video focused on four main points:

  • Cellphones are distracting for students
  • School devices are safer for students to use
  • Cellphones increase negative behaviours
  • Cellphones are creating an addiction for students

The two points that stood out to me are that cellphones are distracting and creating an addiction. I agree that distractions have always existed and as Skylar said in the past students would spend time reading posters on the wall or looking a the bulletin boards. I believe that the type of distractions cellphones are creating are not just the “I am bored, what else can I do” type of moments but rather they are distractions driven by FOMO. That is powerful and causing all kinds of other issues in students. When their phone vibrates with a notification, they almost instantly need to check who it is and what it is about. Even if they are in the middle of something and engaged, that vibration is enough to pull them out. I get it, I do the same and often if I need to work on something without being distracted I leave it in another room. The video below that Jill and Tarina shared explains that the presence of phones might be triggering our minds to create a persistent sense of urgency.

I believe that urgency has also created our need for instant and immediate access to each other. Is that good? Is that bad? Does a parent need instant access to their child to answer a text message during class or is that something that could be addressed at lunch or after school? Does a student need to know what their friend in another school thinks of their snap they sent while trying to work on math? I’m not one to use the “back in the day” argument but yet I can’t hep but stop to think about the reasons people give for needing instant access. Other than a horrific emergency, why can’t a phone call or message wait? I have been an educator long enough that I know of a time before cellphones. Students received messages if needed through the office. Was that so wrong?

Skylar and Alyssa countered the argument with their reasons on why they believe cellphones should not be banned in the classroom. Their points included:

  • Cellphones are needed for medical and emergency uses
  • They can be used for educational purposes
  • Cellphones can be used to help students develop digital citizenship skills

Often the use of cellphones in classrooms comes from a bring your own device (BYOD) belief. Teachers want to be using technology and there are never enough school devices to go around. I understand that and believe in the use of technology. As a public education system, we don’t have enough devices for teachers to use them in a way that always enhances learning. Rather than making BYOD seem like a great privilege for students we should be seeing budgets increased in order to supply our schools with the technology we need. We may disagree with students having cellphones in a classroom but when it comes down to it, we need them to have cellphones in order to access technology we can’t provide them. Teachers aren’t asking students to bring a cellphone so that they can use it as a phone, but rather use it for it ‘s capabilities to act like a computer. I found that reading the article BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century that Alec shared with us highlighted concerns that I had not thought of before.

Skylar and Alyssa provided a strong argument about the definition of the word ban. I wrote about how I don’t agree with banning in my previous post so why was I ok with the thought of banning cellphones? I think it was exactly what they said, it eliminates a problem but doesn’t solve it. Their slogan – don’t make a ban have a plan was very effective. Again expressing the importance of teachers teaching digital citizenship and how to use the device effectively. I like the stoplight visual they shared and can see how it could effectively be used in a classroom.

So once again a debate challenged my thoughts and opinions. While my final vote was disagree, I believe I fall somewhere in the middle. As the semester goes on I am finding the middle to be a place I am ending up in often!


3 thoughts on “Should Cellphones Be Banned in the Classroom?

  1. MrSkylerHart June 8, 2020 / 10:27 am

    Hi Laurie, great summary and reflection on the debate. I am glad that we were able to provide you with an alternative outlook on why cellphones should not be banned from the classroom. In saying that, I do want to acknowledge the issues that you address in the first paragraph. Those examples are definitely not acceptable, and there should be consequences. However, this shows to me the significance of teaching students about digital citizenship. You summed up the topic nicely when you stated “it eliminates a problem but doesn’t solve it.” Overall, great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jacquiemurray June 8, 2020 / 1:20 pm

    Laurie, I have noticed a trend after each debate of falling in the middle. I am beginning to think that maybe that was the plan the whole time! It’s not about sides or even right/wrong, it is about being as informed as possible to make decisions in our classrooms that positively affect our pedagogy and student learning. The way the debates have been structured of each side finding sound research, and defending it shows thorough and extensive reasons both sides are right. Pair those dichotomies with our personal experiences in our classrooms and suddenly there is not right/wrong, rather, a larger landscape of moments that we can consider moving forward- i.e. The Middle! Your summary of the debate, the articles and further reading you discuss exhibit more for me to consider moving forward as I don’t think the binary of banned/allowed is what works. Rather, a blended, aware, conscious decision for diverse situations/rules/procedures and naming our “why” to both ourselves and our students is the best approach. I am starting to love the middle ground!


    • Laurie June 8, 2020 / 9:07 pm

      Ha, I think we have figured out the plan! I too am enjoying the middle – being able to examine both sides with an open mind is so important.

      Liked by 1 person

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