Mobile Phones in the Classroom

There is a government proposal here to ban Mobile/Cell phones from schools. There is general support but some discussion on whether it should be a countrywide ban, left to County level or left up to the governors of individual schools. The other discussion is whether pupils should be told to leave them at home or just to not use them in the classroom.

If there is a closed-book examination in the classroom where students are not allowed to refer to any notes, then I assume it is already the case that mobile devices are banned and the invigilators watch for them. Outside of such circumstances, why could they ban them? They can even be loaded up with electronic textbooks.

The problem is that some pupils will spend their time checking social media, texting friends and watching dodgy videos instead of studying. For the most part they will already have a laptop/tablet for work use.

I’ve been tutoring in a city school this year, via Zoom, and half the kids I worked with accessed the class via their cell phones.

I realize this isn’t the long-term goal, but it does suggest that there are potential benefits to cell phones, even for schooling.

Also, can I ask what country you are speaking for when you say “here”?

As a matter of fact, we just got our son his first phone. He starts middle school this fall. He’ll be walking to school every day (or maybe riding his bike) alone. We want him to be able to reach us if he has any issues.

Sometimes my school lets us use our phones as a calculator, and sometimes even requires us to use them for a lesson. So, no, I believe they shouldn’t be banned on a federal scale.

Also, you want kids to not be on their phones during class? Make school interesting.

UK. I should have said.

Given that all pupils have access to a laptop/tablet, albeit with restricted access, they have no need to use their phones in class.

I agree that a really good teacher should be able to hold the pupils attention. My own (limited) experience of teenagers is that they are unable to resist the buzz of an incoming message.

There’s my word of the day, tyvm!

I taught at a top private school in the UK.
The policy was:

  • pupils could bring mobile phones to school (useful for parental contact)
  • they could not have them on during lessons (they would be confiscated otherwise) … all pupils had laptops for notetaking, Internet access etc.
  • if a family emergency happened during a lesson, the parents would ring the school and action would be taken
  • all phones were handed in at the door for an exam (if found with a phone, the pupil would fail the exam … I think this was a Government rule anyway)

There is also the problem of bullying/harassment through social media. Of course that can happen just as easily out of hours, but having some respite in school hours must be some relief.

Before the pandemic, in that same class, students were sometimes (the rules changed from time to time) allowed to listen to music on their phones while they worked, and sometimes traded in for tablets when they came into the class. When they will had access to phones, the teacher was empowered to confiscate a misused phone until the end of the class.

This was a class with a lot of time spent doing math problems in the classroom, on chrome books. And yes, sometimes kids were distracted by YouTube. More often they were distracted by each other, frankly.

Cell phones have a lot of functionality, that can be used very productively for educational purposes. And they also have the potential to be a distraction.

Yes, students have access to other devices, with similar functionality. And also with similar distraction potential. Why not let them use the devices they have more familiarity with?

I would never want to ban cell phones in my classrooms, as that’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Making sure students aren’t distracting themselves is just something a teacher has to keep an eye out for.

Were I still a school governor that’s exactly the policy I would advocate

I don’t think there’s a teacher alive who is interesting enough to constantly hold their all pupils’ attention all the time, even if you remove the requirement to actually teach them what they’re supposed to be learning.

I think there is a subtle difference between a pupil having a phone or a laptop.
They are used to chatting / social media / texting /e-mailing / surfing with a phone.
A laptop is more used for purposes that match up with a classroom.

Also it’s easier to see what they are doing with a laptop - and when they are using it.

This is a pet peeve of my wife, an elementary school teacher. She does her best, but it’s impossible to constantly be as captivating as as a cell phone, with all its games and apps. Her job is to teach, not to provide entertainment.

Yes indeed.
I was considered a jolly good teacher, but this actually happened once:

We had a central courtyard with many classrooms facing onto it (lots of windows, so plenty of light.)
I’m teaching computing (which the class enjoyed), when I noticed I was losing their attention. :fearful:
It started with one pupil looking across the courtyard … then another, then more. :flushed:
I looked across the courtyard myself … and there is a girl student doing a striptease for a boy student in an otherwise empty classroom. :astonished:

I also saw a male and female teacher racing down a corridor towards the classroom.

So I said “OK, everyone can look out the window - but you stop when I say so!”
There was a rush to look out - but as soon as the teachers sorted the problem, they all came back to their desks and paid full attention.

Of course it would have been hopeless to demand they didn’t look out at the spectacle! :nerd_face: