How Teachers Handle Cell Phones in Class
Educators have struggled with mobile phone use in the classroom for years, and with the constant growth of the tech industry, those struggles will most likely continue to plague schools across the country into the foreseeable future. According to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, “95% of teens…have or have access to a smartphone….”1 With that many mobile devices, teachers have been running into obstacles considering student distractions and dropping grade scores.
How do cell phones affect our students’ learning capabilities?
Student Cell Phone Statistics
Research tends to present a correlation between cell phone use and declining academic performance. A 2015 study in England showed an over 6% increase in performance across four schools that banned mobile phone usage.2 Additionally, another study showed that students not using phones “…scored a full letter grade and a half higher on a multiple choice test than those students who were actively using their mobile phones.”3
Research is continually ongoing as widespread cell phone use is still relatively new. With this information, how are educators approaching the issues?
Adapting to the Times
Some teachers see cell phones as a learning opportunity and use them as teaching tools. Mobile phones have evolved into small, handheld computers, so information is almost immediately available for students wanting to look up the definition of a word or concept they don’t understand. Some educators, such as Ken Halla, have altered their approach to their classroom by allowing open use of phones in class so long as the students use them for their education.4
There are also a number of applications and resources available for educators to enhance their lessons. Programs like PollEverywhere.com and Remind.com help students, teachers, and parents in gauging comprehension and improving organization.
Other teachers, like Stephanie Jones of Biscayne Elementary, haven’t had issues concerning cell phones in their classroom. “Cell phone use has been a non-issue in my teaching career,” says Jones.
Despite the move with technology, many institutions choose to restrict mobile devices on campus.
School Mobile Phone Bans & Restrictions
While some educators are resorting to adapting their curriculum around mobile devices, many schools take to removing cell phones as an obstacle all together, posting “No Cell Phone” signs or requiring students to drop off their devices at the office. Blanket bans like these have shown to improve test scores. However, many schools find it difficult or impossible to enforce zero tolerance bans on mobile devices.
Amy Eardley of Creekside High School takes a middle approach; not outright banning phones but not allowing the use of mobile devices in her class. However, even that proves more difficult in practice.
“For my own sanity, I had to give up on policing phones. Most of the kids will put them away when I walk by and give them a ‘what are you doing look’. Some will stay in them all year and will have a grade that matches their effort. I do occasionally have reminder chats with the whole group that the effort we put in isn’t forgotten when report card time comes around and that students who don’t spend the whole time on their phone will be looked upon more favorably when it comes to grades right on the border of lettergrades.”
Some institutions resort to signal jammers, devices that interfere with the radio wavelengths of mobile devices. However, the use of such items is illegal, as according to the FCC, “…it is a violation of federal law to use a cell jammer or similar devices that intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications such as cell phones, police radar, GPS, and Wi-Fi.”5
As our technology advances and becomes more and more mobile, schools and other institutions may face further difficulty in controlling the use of phones and other devices.
What are your thoughts on cell phones in our schools? How would/do you handle mobile devices in the classroom? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts, and for all of your signage needs, visit CustomSigns.com.
- Pew Research Center
- Ill Communication: Technology, Distraction & Student
- The Impact of Mobile Phone Usage on Student Learning
- National Education Association
- Federal Communications Commission