Teaching Reflections · Technology in Education · Topics for Parents and Students

The Cell Phone Struggle: A Solution?

I was ready to start the 2017/18 school year with a hard line re: cell phone use in my classroom. After spending the last school year trying to ‘incorporate’ cell phones into my regular routine, I was burned out telling kids to get off snapchat, games and texting apps. It just didn’t work. My students had good intentions, but they couldn’t seem to avoid the lure of attention snatching technology on their smarphones.

So, I drafted a note to be included in my course outlines:

“I enjoy running a very technological based classroom, which is mostly paper free. Students will have access to laptop computers, internet access and the full Google Suite of programs during their time in my classroom. Due to these resources there is no need for students to bring their own technology devices in the classroom (ipads, cell phones, personal computers) with the exception of students with special needs who are using a special device to support their learning.”

It was a stark contradiciton to my previous year’s policy of using cell phones in regular classroom activities, but if my goal was student success, I needed to make a change. Cell phone use was effecting the credit accumulation and work ethic of my students; I also observed that the weaker the student or academic level, the worse cell phone use was during class.

I explained the above reasoning when I shared my course outlines with my administrator, but she wasn’t convinced. My principal understood my point of view and said she would support whatever I decided, but warned me that taking such a hardline may backfire, resulting in more conflicts with students. She suggested co-construction and education to develop a mutually agreeable cell phone policy with my students. They’d feel more ownership this way and would (hopefully) follow the policy more effectively.

I decided to follow her suggestions, and created an anonymous Google Form questionnaire as a place to start on the first day of school. Luckily, I got great data from this activity which I shared with my students and sparked a great debate (yay me). From there, we read an Article of the Week on teen cell phone addiction care of Kelly Gallagher’s website and furthered our thinking about appropriate cell phone use in the classroom. This also worked really well as a literacy diagnostic for me since I teach three English courses! Finally, we culminated in co-constructing a cell phone policy that would work in our classroom. And…………..so far it’s working. In each of my three classes, I have only told one student to put away their cell phone. It’s only been two school days, but hey – this is waaaay more promissing than my start up last year. Stay tuned for an update on how this ends up working out come December:)

Want a copy of my resources? Check out this link: Cell Phones in the Secondary Classroom: a resource for policy co-construction. Good luck fighting the cell phone battle in your secondary classrooms – may the force be with you!




3 thoughts on “The Cell Phone Struggle: A Solution?

  1. Kyleen, I think the process and the struggles speak for many educators who are reconciling the proliferation of cell phones. The issue extends to laptops and tablets, which can be a benefit or a curse. I think that your approach has the potential to teach your students about healthy digital practices and improve the learning environment. Thanks for sharing.


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