Cell Phones in the Classroom

I’m reading Curriculum 21 for one of my Masters classes, and an interesting chapter by Alan November popped out at me.  He argues that we should not simply continue banning technology tools that we deem distracting from the classroom, but should harness their powers and teach students how they can be used responsibly.  I completely support this idea.  At my previous school, cell phones were completely banned.  They were not to be seen or heard, and first offenses garnered detentions.  I moved to a new school last year where the policy is a little different.  Student can use their phones in hallways between classes and during lunch, but still cannot have them out during class.  Students seem happy with this policy, and we give out fewer detentions.

I think this should go one step further.

I often have my students take out their phones for tasks other than calling or texting.  They use the calculators often, and I encourage them to use the internet feature (if they have it) to find information they have a question about.  While I am technically breaking school policy, I rather think that I’m encouraging students to use their phones as tools of learning.  In two years, I’ve only had three students try to text in class.  Everyone else has accepted their boundaries and use their phones responsibly, often telling me what they’re looking up as they take out their phone and sharing the information they find with the class.

In a world where information is at our fingertips, why are we limiting how our students access that information?  It seems to me that we should be embracing it and encouraging students to find it as they need it rather than relying on us, the teachers, to give it to them.  They’re learning responsibility and taking control.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

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