Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Politics of Cell Phones in Schools

Edweek published an interesting article in November highlighting the problems with students having cell phones in schools. Specifically students posting videos to YouTube (and other online vlogging-type sites) of teachers and other students that were taken secretly in the schools. While the article goes on to talk about this being a reason why schools need to have policies against cell phones it also opens up a discussion about the legality of these videos being posted.

What I really appreciate about the article is that it goes further than simply pointing to the problem, the writer actually offers some reasons for the problem and a solution! Yes, a potential solution----educate our youth on appropriate uses with cell phones! I think these are the discussions we need to be having. Instead of just banning the devices, how can we educate youth on appropriate uses? The fact is that we live in a digital world where everyday people are posting "illegally" obtained videos/images to YouTube and other sharing sites such as Flickr. I think by simply creating policies against bringing cell phones into schools, we are missing an opportunity to educate students on appropriate and proper uses of cell phones (as well as legal issues around publishing from their mobile devices to the Internet). This is an opportunity that we should embrace as educators, rather than shy away from. I think educators also need help teaching students how to stay safe and legal in the mobile world. While I do not condone what students are doing, I also do not think we should "band aid" the situation with a simple "no cell phones in school" policy. I believe if we create structures for cell phones and help students understand the consequences of their "publishing" actions, we may see less of these YouTube videos.

So I better practice what I preach, what are my solutions to allowing students to have cell phones in schools for classroom learning? Here are my ideas...
1) One possibility is a social contract with students, before they are allowed to bring cell phones into schools, teachers and students work together to create rules on cell phones use in the classroom.
2) Collect their cell phones at the beginning of class (there can be a drop box as the students walk in), and allow students to get them when needed in class.
3) Keep them out in the open. Focus activities on their cell phones, so that they will be doing content-based work with their mobile devices rather than hiding them and taking inappropriate video/images.

Any other ideas? I'd love to hear them...


Anonymous said...

Our School uses the policy that cell phone use is not tolerated in the classroom but allowed when not. We control the use of cellphones during class by detectors from phonebuster.
Since operating this policy we seem to have really cut down issues of irritating behaviour caused by use of phones innappropriately. The children seem to respect that we allow them to bring their phones to school as long as they are turned off in class.

Jack Graham
Principle St Marys Catholic High School

Liz Kolb, Ph.D. said...

Thank you for the comment and the insight on your policies. I am going to have to take a look at phonebuster, I have not heard of it before, it sounds like it might be a nice solution for other schools who are having problems. I like that you seem to take a "compromised" approach and am happy to hear that it seems to be working.


Anonymous said...

Jack, do you have info regarding the phonebuster? something like that at our school would be a great tool to help stem cell phone use during classes, especially during testing.
thank you,
jim howe

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