Here is a fact…Kids are on their phones as much as they can be. Here is another fact…So are most adults.
As a teacher I have struggled with cell phones policies for the last few years. I’ve gone from a no phone policy, to no policy at all this year. I’ve read too many blogs about the subject, written papers on BYOD, debated cell phones as a distraction or a tool with multiple people, and I don’t think I’m any more clear on what the ideal cell phone policy should be in schools.
As I said, I don’t have a cellphone policy in my class. They are allowed. It’s that simple. I have asked kids to use judgement as to when using their phone is appropriate and/or rude. Has it backfired? Sure. I have seen kids texting in class, playing flappy bird, etc. Does this make me a bad teacher for allowing this to happen and not adjusting my cellphone policy? You can be the judge of that. Here are some things I wrote in my notebook one day after school. It is not flowing and is not meant to be. More of a ramble…
I don’t view students using cellphones in class as a problem. I think it is just the way it is. I won’t fight human nature. Watch adults in your next staff meeting, or attend a grad school program. You will see people checking their emails, texting their spouses or their kids, maybe even playing flappy bird (I’ve seen it). Just because we are adults and are more mature, have we earned the right to use our phones in situations where it is clearly not encouraged or polite? I don’t believe that line of thinking.
The easy solution for a teacher is to fight it and tell kids to put their phones away while in class. That makes the teacher feel that the kids will not be distracted and will therefore be more engaged in the lesson. But how long can this strategy survive? Imagine a not too distant future with smart watches, smart glasses (Google Glass), smart phones, and who knows what else. Will we require kids to take off all glasses and watches when they enter our rooms? This is not a Jetsons future. This is the near future. Educators need to consider these changes as they reshape their classrooms to meet the needs of new students every year.
While we continue to struggle with the “Do we allow cellphones in class?” questions. While we debate the level of distraction vs. the level of engagement and value cellphones bring, we need to realize that before we end up with an answer based on any research, the questions will all be different. Smartphones are a part, a big part of all of our lives. However, soon we will see people walking around with glasses and watches that all function similarly to our phones in that they provide what are known in school as distractions. It will happen. We need to embrace these changes and instead of trying to separate that reality from an outdated vision of a classroom, we need to find a way to optimize the educational experience for the connected kids of the future. We can’t disconnect them from the world between the hours of 8am – 3pm everyday. Don’t be scared. You have to leave your comfort zone and take a risk. The same thing you ask your students to do. Take a risk and see what the future may look like and then change your teaching to ensure that the technology is used as a tool and not just a distraction. Will kids be distracted at times? Yes. Will they talk to other kids in other rooms? Yes. Will they try to play a game every now and then? Yes. Will they ignore you? Maybe. Welcome to the future.