How Can We Employ Student Cell Phones Effectively?

iphone-banI have been mulling over this one for a while and I am looking for help from the community. We all have been aware for some time about the problems posed by draconian internet filtering in schools. The solution to this problem appeared for me when I took the time to prepare, made a meeting with my superintendent and made a measured argument regarding the potential educational value of Web 2.0 tools and networking sites. My school, along with others across the country are now running into the issue about what to do with student cell phones. As more and more students acquire cell phones schools have scrambled to put policies in place to police them. In my school the way that these policies have been imposed reminds me of the arbitrary way websites were added to the districts. The current policy here is simply that students are not allowed to have a cell phone on their person during the school day. The district encourages students to leave them at home (which doesn’t happen), but if they do bring the phones to school they are to remain in their locker powered off throughout the school day. If a teacher learns that a student has a phone on their person, or if the device goes off in the locker the device is to be immediately confiscated.

I understand the districts position a little on this one. As it stands now, cell phones are mainly a distraction because they are not employed by the school in any meaningful way. I myself have been interrupted during a class by a student’s cell phone going off. The district has also run into the problem of students calling parents or the media during an emergency or drill. As phones and networks become more sophisticated, and as handheld devices eventually replace desktop devices what can we do to use these tools in our instruction without simply banning them? I am open to ideas.

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4 thoughts on “How Can We Employ Student Cell Phones Effectively?

  1. Janet Clarey says:

    “As it stands now, cell phones are mainly a distraction because they are not employed by the school in any meaningful way” and that’s the ultimate catch 22 isn’t it? Sigh.
    BTW…just ran across your blog. We’re practically neighbors. I’m in Clinton.

  2. Shirley says:

    The first thing that has to happen is that the cell phones need to be taken out of the lockers and out of the purses. School policy needs to allow the students and faculty to use the tools. Then, turn the imaginations loose. I.E. Use the cell phones to research topics relevant to the subject by calling friends to gather information. Create real-time reports from current weather data from around the world. Use the cameras to take pictures of angles around campus and then discuss the classifications, Use the phones as student response pads to check for understanding, Use the calculators on the phones for basic operations. Use the search engines on the phones. Make sure the phones are always visible on the desk, and you won’t have students texting under the desk or table. Just some suggestions. There are many more.

    • Chris says:

      These are some really awesome suggestions. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am going to start using sone of these, let’s see how long it takes for administration to catch on 😉

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