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Cell phones in the classroom

It appears that school administrators and educators are becoming increasingly divided over the question of whether to allow students to bring cell phones into classrooms

Many schools are sticking rigidly to complete bans, calling cell phones a distraction and a challenge to the teacher's authority. Others suggest that in an era where over 70% of students own a cell phone, a ban is unrealistic and a better approach might be to harness some of their powerful features and use them as teaching aids.

The issue flared up again last month when over 100 students at a New Haven, Connecticut school were suspended for bringing cell phones and iPods onto school grounds.

The Director for Communications for New Haven schools, Michael Wade, told reporters that repeated warnings had been given since students returned to campus last September. "They started cracking down on these things because it was getting too disruptive to the learning process."

Years ago, it would have been unthinkable for students to have cell phones in the classroom but a combination of security fears and an always-connected, always-networking digital age has changed all that.

"There is something comforting about knowing you are just a phone call or a text away," said Mary Chamberlain, the mother of two Eastchester, NY middle-school students. "After Columbine and 9/11, it's unrealistic to cut off all communication with your children for 8 hours a day."

The attitude of the students themselves is also playing a role. To many kids that send or receive upwards of 150 texts a day, the thought of being separated from their beloved cell phones is too much to bear.

However, it's that very attachment that has exasperated educators. Read what one ex-teacher had to say in this posting to an Internet discussion group:

"In the last few years that I was teaching it was a constant battle during class time against cell phones and devices that played electronic games. During the break between classes and at recess the kids immediately got out their iPods or equivalent and went around like zombies with earphones stuck in their ears. Even on sunny days we had to drive them out of the building like cattle during recess because all they wanted to do was sit around and either play electronic games, listen to their earphones or send text messages."

Despite having wide support in the local community, the action taken by the New Haven school is very much the exception. Even where cell phone bans exist, they are regularly flouted. A survey from last year found that 65% of all students use their phones at school. Where a ban is in effect, that number drops just two points to 63%.

So, sadly, in the face of rebellious students and sympathetic parents, we can expect many more schools to reconsider their cell phone policies. Despite educators' trying to dress up the revised approach as attempts at incorporating a new set of educational tools, it feels a lot like a case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em".

How do you feel about cell phones in the classroom? Are they a big disruption or is essential that you can always reach your child? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!     

Comment by Rehaume, posted 9/25/2010, 2:04 PM:

I believe cell phones are to be used outside of school. Never in a classroom. How can they listen to the teacher? More distractions. If students don't listen and have low marks; who will be blamed, the teachers..............
They complained about young students are overweight, no sports but texting and talking on the cell. Enjoy the sports and forgetting about cell and texting.
Comment by Heather, posted 2/8/2010, 6:46 PM:

My 5 year old doesn't have a cell phone yet and she won't for a few years yet. My 10 year old has had a phone for 1 1/2 years. He has had a lot of problems with bullies to the point where he was jumped off the bus stop. After that I decided he was going to carry a phone everywhere. He takes it to school, but he knows that it stays in his pocket, he's not allowed to take it out unless there is an emergency. There have been no problems yet. *knock on wood*
Comment by Aimee Bartis, posted 2/8/2010, 12:21 AM:

Such a slippery slope. As an educator and a mom I understand both sides. The educational issue is often one of attention (is the student paying attention to the lesson/work) and cheating (texting answers during tests).
Comment by Jeny Jennings , posted 2/4/2010, 4:46 PM:

I think they should be allowed in class. I have raised 5 children they did not have cell phones then, I am now raising a 15 year old and a 7 year old. I myself believe they should have there cell phone's at all times. Maybe not use them in class unless it's the MOM or DAD calling. I want to be able to reach my child when ever I want. I am all for cell phones in class.,I am 64 years old so don't think it's because I am young. NOT But, I am 64 years young. Thanks Enjoy the day
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