Thursday, March 10, 2011


So I toed the line.  I collected the cellphones.  I put my own away.  I punished those who failed to follow the rules.  I raised questions at the staff meeting.  Then I got on with teaching.

So what are the results? 
( Of taking away everyone's cell phones.)

In the short term there has been an improvement during class.  The students are less distracted.  My class is interrupted less.  For most teachers this immediate benefit is enough.  Oh and there are fewer calculators available.

In the long term?  We are letting down our students.  Rather than teaching responsibility we force them to learn it on their own.  Teenagers are good at that right?  We are failing to leverage a powerful tool in the classroom.  If you are reading this blog then you have probably already read several articles about the benefits of mobile devices in the classroom.  Some of the links I have collected can be found here.  Go ahead and read through them.

The staff meeting was interesting.  Virtually all of the staff were in favour of the ban.  In fact I was greeted with a little hostility when I asked if there was a plan in place to start using cellphones constructively.  The bottom line is that according to current policy the students will NEVER be allowed to have cellphones during class again.  It was actually said with capitol letters.  One teacher commented that it is not our job to teach the skills to use cellphones respectfully.  As for staff cellphones?   We are to be seen locking our cellphones up with our students and then put them back into our pockets or purses when the students are not looking.  According to our emergency planning we are supposed to have cellphones on us.  It is a good thing that the students would not be able to notice a cell phone sized bulge in our pockets.

I did have a good conversation with another teacher.  We concluded that the best course of action is to cut the students off cold turkey (like we have) and then slowly reintroduce the cellphones on a class by class basis.  We should be teaching respectful use as we go and increase privileges accordingly.  Of course this was just a conversation between two of us.

I also had another good conversation with one of our division consultants.  She pointed out that our division is moving towards one to one computing.  How will we handle each student having a laptop when we can't even handle them having cell phones?  Students having their own mobile devices at their fingertips is actually good training for teachers.  It gets us (teachers) ready for when students will all have the technology at their desk.

So how has the cellphone ban affected me personally?

I refuse to lie to my students so I don't carry my iPhone around with me.  Besides there is no point if I cannot use it.  I am less organized now.  I no longer have my dayplan in my pocket.  I enjoyed having a camera with me at all times.  I read my books on it.  I loved the fact that I had access to most of my accumulated information.  I do miss being able to look up student lists, classroom phone lists, and other information.  I miss being able to look up school emails - I have to rely on my memory (not great).  I think that I actually got the shakes when I had to put it away .  Did I text constantly? No.  Was I an obsessive Twitterer?  Nope.  Was I on Facebook?  Uh, uh.

I realize that my smartphone really kept me better connected to myself.