Cell phones…useful technological tool or a distraction?

For our blog post this week, we were given the opportunity to write about an article or articles we read and discuss our reactions to them. Luckily for me, I came across a short article which proved to be very interesting. If you have not yet read, I recently tweeted an article posted from CTV News about a Toronto middle school banning the use of cell phones within classrooms and in the hallways. When I first came across this article, I read it immediately as the title alone caught my attention. The article states,

“Since September, students have been prohibited from texting, taking photos or signing into social media over the school’s lunch hour”.

Following this statement, the article notes that the use of cell phones may be permitted where a cell phone may be “helpful” to the task at hand, which includes a school activity or a specific lesson.

After reading this article, I felt somewhat torn about the situation. I understand the real life struggle that teachers and instructors face with permitting the use of cellphones in schools. It is evident that there are both pros and cons for allowing the use of cell phones within the classroom and now a days, many students own cell phones, starting at a young age. I’m sure we can all agree that it is very easy to become distracted by our cell phones. Personally, I use my cell phone for almost everything. From paying bills online, texting, taking photos and exploring social media, it is difficult for me to put my phone down and remember that moderation is key when it comes to the use of technology. In my opinion, whether or not the use of cell phones is permitted in the classroom depends entirely on the classroom teacher/instructor. However, it is encouraging to know that there are ways cell phones may be put to good use in the classroom. Rather than exhausting ourselves while “fighting the good fight and asking students to put their phones away during class”, consider the different ways technological devices, like cellphones may be used during class time. Recently, my colleague Jayme-Lee tweeted an article about “Five Ways Students Can Use Their Cell Phones in the Classroom”. Within this article, it provides a list of 5 digital resources that includes Kahoot, Quizizz, Pear Deck, Google Slides Q & A and Socrative. These resources are engaging, fun, encourages team work, and are effective for examining informational content. Therefore, if you find yourself in the position of picking battles with your students about the use of cell phones, remember that cell phones do have potential to be used for learning, as long as it is in a controlled and teacher-lead environment.

Since taking online classes with Alec and Katia, I learned about many digital resources available to both teachers and students to assist with learning. Professionally, I have grown and am much more open to technology than ever before. As an adult, I enjoy taking online classes. I am able to learn and communicate online with fantastic individuals, many within the same profession as me. Furthermore, I am able to collaborate from the comfort of my own home. As a teacher, I also believe in the concept of Blended Learning. I appreciate the combination of face-to-face instruction with my students while using technology to assist in my everyday teaching. When implemented effectively, a blended learning program can be beneficial and serve several purposes:

1) Institutions have the potential to manage instructional and facility resources more efficiently, teaching more students within a semester.
2) This approach is beneficial for students, providing the convenience and flexibility associated with online learning, freeing up time for work, family obligations or extra-curricular activities.
3) Blended learning develops a skill set for students that otherwise would not be possible in exclusive face-to-face instruction. Skills include digital citizenship, information management skills, self-directed learning, and web research and collaboration skills.

Therefore, what are your thoughts regarding the use of cell phones in the classroom? In your experience, do you agree we can use them to our advantage to assist in learning or do you feel they are a distraction? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic!

Thanks for stopping by!


10 thoughts on “Cell phones…useful technological tool or a distraction?

  1. This is a tough topic. I too struggle with allowing cell phones in the classroom. I work with at-risk kids and right now they turn them in before class, get them at lunch and then turn them in after lunch. I will try ti integrated them in the classroom and when we need them the students go get them and then return the phones when the activity is complete. I know that this is “not cool” anymore but I struggle not only with the attention issue but the drama that the phones bring to the classroom. I have had students received distraught texts from boyfriends, family members etc. and then have the student walk out of school crying or be in the counselling office for the rest of the day. When the phones are turned in there is nor drama for the day. I’m not sure what the answer is but is it really bad to put a phone away for a while?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I absolutely agree with you Benita! This is a very difficult subject, which is why I mentioned in my post that there will always be pros and cons with permitting the use of cell phones within the classroom. I agree with you that the use of cell phones can be a major distraction and can definitely create drama for our students. I also understand the daily fights teachers have with telling students to put away their phones and even though cell phones have the potential to assist in learning, establishing a strict environment where students will follow guidelines is another issue it itself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts/experiences with me regarding this topic!


    • I totally agree with you Benita! Although, I am trying to incorporate the use of tech much more into my daily instruction. I’m much less worried about the phone being a distraction and much more concerned with all the drama it causes. Let’s be honest, we would all be in the same situation if we received any of those texts as well. So how do we as teachers manage this and how do we teach the students to cope with this? I am hoping that with more digital citizenship instruction I will be able to “loosen the reins” on the phone business. Any other suggestions out there?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: All work and no play… – EC&I 834

  3. I did see your tweet about cellphone use! I feel like for the past few years I have seen article after article of one school or another banning cellphone use. Obviously I agree that students with their cell phones can be hard to manage, but I think it’s also important that we remember it’s the students we are managing, not the technology. The technology is neutral. It can be used for “good” or “evil” lol. My mentor teacher, Jann Porritt, who is a tech guru had a great way of allowing cell phones. Every student who had a cell phone was allowed to have it in class, but they must have it face up on their desks at all time with the sound off. If they were using it for classwork such as clickers, camera, or calculators etc., it was accessible, but if a text or something came in, they were not allowed to check it during class time. It was to be used as another tool, not a distraction. As soon as it became a distraction, that student lost the privilege of having it out anymore. I think she made them keep it in their locker after that. Do I think the odd student snuck in a text message, or checked Facebook secretly? Perhaps. But didn’t we all get caught passing notes in our day and age at some point? The pencil can also be a distracting piece of technology if a student isn’t engaged with the lesson. If all our students want to do is be on their phones doing something else during our lesson, shouldn’t it be our teaching we question?
    I also know that if they asked her and it was appropriate, she let them use it to call their parents if they needed something. Why would we bog down our office admin assistants sending students down to use the office phone if we have the appropriate technology in our classroom? The call was ‘supervised’ per se and then the student was back to work! No secret bathroom trips to call a parent!
    Just my thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It surprises me that the parents are on board with the school ban as, in my experience, they are the ones that are the most insistent that students are able to have their phones at all times (but maybe that is just my community).

    I struggle with phones in class, they are useful tools but I find that more than often they are just distractions. Even so, I am probably one of the most lenient in my building about them, usually taking a stance of “this is your information to learn, if you choose to not learn it, you can come back next year” as, for some students, it takes a couple of rough assignments or exams to realize that they are missing out on the content of the class. This is also a benefit of teaching high school as they need my History 10 and math credits to earn a grade 10 standing and they are quick to realize that they do not want to retake the course. I think I would use them more often as tools if more of my students had cell phones in their pockets, I find that 20-25% of my classes do not have access to devices and, as mentioned by Angela in her post, (https://angelastechadventure.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/technology-can-be-inspiring/) it is often difficult to get access to school devices.

    Great post, it has definitely made me think about cell phone use in my classroom!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post Roxanne! Had I answered this blog mid-week, last week- which felt like the longest week ever, in my teaching career, I would have said without a doubt – BAN THEM ALL! However, now being on a break from the classroom and reading this blog and the comments posted, I am able to think a little more logically and know myself that I have asked students to use them in class to either assist them in the task at hand or provide additional engagement with the lesson. Apps like Remind, Kahoot, Class Dojo, and even the all faithful calculator, have their merit at times! In a high school setting, I do find it always a delicate balance making sure they are all doing what it is they are supposed to be and not texting, posting to social media or taking selfies…but when they are all on task, the outcome is always so worth any additional stress of asking students to use those cell phones in class!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. At our school students are allowed to have them at lunch and that is it. Unless the teacher has given permission to have them out during class. Our policy is VERY strict in terms of using it without permission during class. If I see a cell phone it is confiscated and can be kept in the office for up to two weeks. I know that sounds intense, but we don’t have issues with phones being used in the classroom. As a private school it is written into our parent and student manual so the expectation is made very clear right from the start.

    This eliminates the use of cell phones for the wrong reasons in the classroom. Students always ask me for permission to use their phones to research something or to look up a picture to reference when they are trying to draw something. I have no problem with students using cell phones until they start taking advantage of it. There are a few of us at our school who use cell phones often in class using the different apps like Kahoot or Socrative. There are some students that take advantage when we do group activities like this and their cell phones have been taken away by me for the class. I think it’s important to teach students that if they are asked to used their phone for something they should use it for that specific purpose and not Snapchat for example.

    All that being said, I do believe that the bathroom breaks at our school during class are probably longer than other schools because students are most likely in there on their phone. However this is only the case with a few students and really, it is their loss if they choose to waste class time on their phone.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts everyone! It’s definitely a subject that I’m sure we all feel strongly about. I can’t say that I have never wanted to ban cell phones because trust me…I’ve had my days too haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: An Adventure in Video Tutorials …. | The Math Lady

  8. So this isn’t just in Toronto. It came out just before Christmas that an elementary school in Regina has a complete device ban too. I haven’t heard anything about how that is going or if other schools are rumbling about that.

    I think it’s important that we talk about good uses in the classroom but I also think this ties into digital citizenship. Students will use those phones when they leave our classrooms so pretending they don’t exist is only temporarily helpful to teachers. Yes, they can be distractions, but do those of you teaching regularly talk about that with your students? Do you talk about the why of cell phone use or not use? And how it applies outside your classrooms? I think sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day function or dysfunction that we forget to explain.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s