Return of the Cellphones-in-Class Question
Today’s mailbag brings a question that was on every teacher’s lips a few years ago. I haven’t heard much talk about it recently. Is that because teachers have solved this problem on their own? If so, I’d like to hear your suggestions…
Dear David: I’m a high school teacher. Like all high schools, we are dealing with a problem that sucks time, energy, and resources like a black hole: cellphones. We waged a similar battle a few years back with iPods, and although stakes seem much higher now, the fundamental argument is the same. The argument is:
1] cellphones are a distraction
2] cellphones present a potential liability in terms of cheating on tests
3] cellphones are a distraction
My position is that we’re fighting the wrong fight, and fighting a fight no one will win. Telling teenagers that they cannot have a cellphone on their person, or worse, telling them that they can carry it but they cannot use it, is like banning cloudy days. It’s an admirable suggestion, but totally ludicrous. If I’m gauging the pace of progress correctly, by the time my current students exit college, the iPhone will be one of five devices that offer voice, text, e-mail, video chat, and Web access. Banning them is, in my opinion, ill considered at best.
I truly feel we should be incorporating their capabilities into the curriculum when possible, and teaching etiquette and personal responsibility in their use—because if the college class I teach is any example, they don’t got none. It’s so disheartening to look around during a lecture and see the soft glow of the screens while my students text away. I want to say it’s insulting, but it’s not personal — not in the least. It’s just the way it is.
So I’m asking for some insight on how to sell this to an administration that is overwhelmed with a hundred more important things, and to a school board that feels that two $500 computers are twice as good as one $1,000 machine. What’s the answer?
So my answer is, let them eat cake, oh I mean I have to agree teach the student responsible use of technology. There is no way to stop them from using and having them so teach them how to use them properly. With so much to teach students and so little time why should we as educators waste some of that time on this issue.
It seems like Steve Dembo had the same idea as I did and posted Dave's letter on his blog as well. What makes this even more ironic is that Steve, Dave and I were all together at PETE&C this year. Steve and Dave as keynote speakers and little old me just there to hear them. But we all had the same idea of venting on the time wasted on this issue.