Cell phones have always been something that children got in trouble for having out during school hours. I am pretty sure I have given one or two detentions for this very thing. However, Jefferson County Public Schools are starting to rethink this rule in some of their high schools. Some schools are not only allowing them, but encouraging their use.
There are seven local public high schools that are already incorporating cell phones in the classroom. With the rise in the use of technology, such as iPads and other tablets for educational purposes, school systems are wanting to incorporate this resource into the classroom. Unfortunately, many publicly-funded schools cannot afford to provide iPads for their high school students like many private schools in Louisville, Kentucky. Administrators do not want public schools students to be behind in technological advances due to lack of funding.
WDRB News recently published an article summarizing viewpoints on both sides of this issue from educators and parents, which can be found here. As a teacher and a parent, I can see both the benefits and problems that allowing smartphones in the classroom can create.
Benefits of Smartphones in the Classroom
When a student has a smartphone, they essentially have access to a handheld computer at their fingertips. As a teacher, I can see a myriad of learning opportunities that this can create in the classroom. They can be used for research for projects or daily assignments. There are many educational apps the can be used to help review material covered in class. It allows students to be more engaged and allows them the ability to be more hands-on.
My son’s high school is fortunate enough to be able to provide the students with iPads. Some of the apps that he benefits from include: My Fitness Pal for Health class to keep a food log, Notability to take notes, Duo-Linguo to review Spanish, Edmodo to communicate with teachers and keep track of assignments, PowerSchool to monitor his grades and No Red Ink to help with grammar. They also use the iPads for a multitude of math games and problem solving activities. JCPS administrators and teachers also plan to use the phones to help teach the students proper phone etiquette, which is definitely something that this generation is lacking.
The first issue that comes to mind is that while a large percentage of teenagers carry smartphones, there will be some children that do not have access. To fix this situation, schools have already discussed offering a tablet or the equivalent for these students to use. The next problem that I see is that there cannot be the same kind of safeguards set up to monitor student activity and block inappropriate websites on a personal phone as with a school issued device. If a student is not on the school Wi-Fi, the school is unable to set up web blockers. The only real solution to this problem is for teachers to walk around and monitor the students closely. Phones can also become a distraction since schools cannot regulate games and apps or disable texting on a personal phone like they can a school issued tablet. The rule at Waggener High School, one of the schools that is piloting this program, is that if students are not using phones for instructional purposes, they must be in their pockets or visible on their desk.
Benefits seem to Outweigh the Risks
In conclusion, I feel that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Teachers and staff must remain vigilant in monitoring students to make sure that they are on task and are not using the phones inappropriately or to harass other students. Teachers will need training so they know what new trends to watch out for. Time will be the final judge as to the benefits of this new technology in the classroom. Smartphones should only be used as an additional resource in the classroom and teacher discretion is key. As new schools incorporate this technology in the classroom, they need to learn from past mistakes and issues at other schools. As with all technology, its effectiveness needs to be continually re-evaluated and adjustments made to make sure that students are getting the most out of it, with minimal negative effects.
Paige Quiggins, “Students using cell phones in select JCPS classrooms,” http://www.wdrb.com/story/23748180/students-using-cell-phones-in-select-jcps-classrooms