The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER FIVE – Should cell phones be banned in the classroom?

Tonight’s debate featured two teams debating whether or not cell phones should be banned in the classroom. Each team made fantastic use of the fact that this topic is hotly debated in the media, by incorporating news reports and popular media clips in their opening arguments.

As the debate progressed, it felt as though really we were debating two different aspects of the same topic (cell phones).

  1. Whether or not students should have access to cell phones all the time during school.
  2. Whether or not students should be able to utilize their cell phones as EdTech.

Both teams had arguments that covered these points.

Skyler and Alyssa aimed to convince us that cell phones in the classroom are a positive addition to Educational Technology and teaching and learning in general. Plus, they had an extremely catchy slogan “Don’t Ban, Make a Plan!” and apparently political tactics work on me because I was thinking “Yeah!” as Skyler ended his debate rebuttal with it.

I found their argument fascinating for more than one reason – but what really interested me was they still took a middle ground approach. They did not argue that students should have their devices at all times, instead they favoured the wording of “restricted use” instead of an all out ban, such as the one instituted recently in Ontario. They advocated for clear guidelines in teaching digital citizenship and teacher and administrator determined restrictions.

Jill and Tarina argued that students should not have physical access to cell phones in school, and that they should in fact be banned from the classroom due to their ability to potentially cause distractions. They cited a news report that illustrated how a teacher and her students tracked the amount of notifications they collectively received in a time period – as a way to prove how often a phone could possibly distract a student. The results of this didn’t surprise me – I am an adult and I leave my cell phone in my bedroom during WFH hours because I know I cannot trust myself to not become distracted. (This might just be a symptom of my lack of respect for my own authority though…)

In terms of Cell Phones as educational technology they argued not that we should not have technology in classrooms, but rather school division laptops and tablets were the answer to this need, instead of student cell phones. They discussed the fact that school owned devices are equipped with firewalls and therefore provide certain amounts of protection to students and piece of mind to educators.

Since I know I began the debate firmly in line with Skyler and Alyssa – I was really torn halfway through. Overall this team was very convincing. I can’t disagree with most of their points – they were in fact true and the team came prepared with the research to back it up.

However, it is only because this is my second course focusing on Educational Technology that I also know that there is a growing body of research too – that would argue that most of these issues are caused by a lack of Digital Citizenship Education for students, both at home and at school.

After all, Mike Ribble describes Digital Citizenship as

“The continuously developing norms of appropriate, responsible, and empowered technology use.”

Mike Ribble, 2017

Although I do very much believe that phones can be distracting physically, as well as cause a great deal of social and emotional issues among students, which is the part that still troubles me, and I won’t pretend to have an answer for. That said, I can’t help but also believe that it is our duty to help students define and navigate the norms of technology use – starting in the classroom.

via The Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide

If we expect students to become digital citizens, but don’t allow them the freedom and the space to navigate with their most commonly used pieces of technology – will their learning be authentic?

Let me know what you think! Check out my video from my last EC&I 832 Class Arguing what I think a School’s role in Teaching Digital Citizenship should be – and tell me your own thoughts in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “The Great EdTech Debate – CHAPTER FIVE – Should cell phones be banned in the classroom?”

  1. Victoria, first of all I laughed out loud at your comment that perhaps you have to leave your phone in your room because you “don’t respect your own authority”. Not only was it funny, and as I write this my phone is upside down and on the counter, but it got me thinking. I have assumed in my class that when students are distracted by their phone it is a lack of respect for the content, the classroom and even the teacher at the front. However maybe that is a surface level observation. That could be true, but if we really look at how we use tech in our rooms, the way we introduce it and incorporate it we begin to see the depth of ways in which this situation could be addressed. Your post goes onto share the many ways in which teachers can use Digital Citizenship to highlight the when’s, how’s and appropriate use of technology in the classroom. Furthermore, the way you discuss Skyler and Alyssa’s catchy phrase “Don’t ban, make a plan” exhibits the needs to go beyond the notion of lack of respect, and into the ways we an empower student autonomy, honoring their decision making while still maintaining boundaries that benefit student engagement and learning. Thank you for this aha moment! It is essential as 21st Century Educators that teachers go beyond the initial reaction and reflect on the ways we an advocate for a better decision that benefits their learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t look at it it as extra tech… I look at it as teaching them how/when to use it. The amount of things I look up on my phone every day is astounding. Do I have perfect etiquette… no. Would my etiquette be better if I used it as part of my everyday life in high school and etiquette and rules were enforced just like other social skill is.

    Liked by 1 person

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