This blog post stems from our discussion of Digital Literacy in the 21st Century with Jessie Miller of Mediated Reality.
All or Nothing
In September 2018, Central Middle School banned the use of cellphones on school property. Students were asked to leave their devices at home, and if they brought their cellphones to school the devices would be confiscated. During my teaching program, we visited Central Middle School, and I was delighted to see how progressive and tech-forward this school was; I couldn’t wait to apply for a practicum there with the hopes of working there once I graduated. To me, this was a forward thinking, tech-embracing, 3D printing, laptop-using middle school who was ahead of the curve for progressive education. Which is why, when this announcement was made about the cellphone ban, I was shocked. What could be so bad about cellphones that they aren’t even allowed on school property?
The principal of Central expressed that the staff felt there was very little – if not any – educational benefit of students having cell phones in their hands at school.
This ban led to me to think about the pros and cons of cellphone use in the classroom. This can’t be a black and white issue. Surely, we can find a way to embrace these devices and incorporate their uses into our lessons and teaching practice?
While many parents allow children free rein of the internet at home, it’s a common debate in education circles on how—and if—digital devices should be allowed at school. Supporters of technology in the classroom say that using laptops, tablets, and cellphones in the classroom can keep students engaged. Technology is what they know. Most students today don’t even remember a time without the internet. But critics say it’s yet another distraction in the classroom. From social media to texting, allowing digital devices could hinder a student’s performance in the classroom.
Pros of Cellphones in the Classroom
Cons of Cellphones in the Classroom
Negative health impacts of screen time in adolescents article mentioned in the recording above.
Check out this TedTalk about the negative effects that screen time, at any age, can have on our overall happiness:
Communication is Key
In my classroom, I struggle to keep students off of their cellphones. I use techniques like giving them “the look”, standing next to them while they are texting, or blatantly calling them out in class for using their phones. Usually, they respond with an eye roll, a sassy remark, but then put it back into their pocket or facedown on their desk. My classroom policy for cellphones is that the students are allowed to have their phones facedown on their desk, with their music on shuffle. If they need to look at their phones, it is only to change music quickly. They know that if they are waiting for a text or call from their parent/guardian, their best bet to avoid having their phone taken away is to let me know why they need their phone that day. Open communication is key for me – if there is something going on in your life that you need your phone for, let me know and I am happy to let you keep an eye out for those messages.
Jails, Boxes, Shoe Racks…
I have seen other classrooms and schools create cellphone jails, boxes of shame, cellphone cubbies, or even just a tub where phones are to be dumped before class starts. You can check some of them out in the link below:
I would not want to be responsible for all of these expensive devices, use class time to collect all of the phones, or have to communicate with parents/guardians who may disagree with this “cellphone jail”. For me, building relationships, trust, and communication with the students around my expectations for cellphones is how I manage cellphone use in my class.
Cellphones are here to stay, and the more schools try to fight it, the more difficult it will be to get students off of their screens and back into the classroom. There is a place in school for cellphones, but if digital devices are permitted, there should be guidelines and rules in place.
Digital literacy and digital citizenship should become part of the new BC curriculum. Right now, the only place I see where it can fit is into Computer Science, Career Education, and ADST? I would be curious to start an EdChat on Twitter regarding where these issues could fit…
There are lots of resources for teaching the concepts of digital literacy / citizenship. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has comprehensive standards for students to be successful in the digital world. A resource I would recommend trying in your class is a digital citizenship game developed by ISTE and Google called Interland. This games shows kids how to manage their digital footprint and avoid hackers, phishers, oversharers, and bullies online!
If the students are going to become digitally aware and literate, it is important that the administration and staff become tech-literate as well. In order to incorporate digital literacy/citizenship in the classroom, teachers need proper support in training, professional development, and curriculum implementation. I believe most teachers want their students to be safer online, but are quite busy with the other demands in their classroom to really follow through with developing their own lessons around this topic. For busy teachers, like myself, a great place to start for curriculum and Pro-D resources is Common Sense Media. To effectively use the resources on this website, it is important that teachers take the time to collaborate, plan, and create a meaningful lesson about digital devices in their classroom – this would be a great Pro-D day topic!
Digital devices are great learning tools to embrace our ever changing, increasingly online world. In the classroom, devices are utilized best when there are specific goals for their use, focusing on student online safety, digital citizenship, and critical thinking.