Because student attention and class participation are generally major factors in the grading process, addressing the distraction of cell phone technology has become a frequent necessity for teachers. Dr. Claire Summers, an associate professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, said in an Oct. 5 press release that there’s an ongoing battle between teachers and students over classroom cell phone use that “has become a substantial problem.” She said there’s no disputing that students continually distracted by cell phones are unable to engage in the class as fully as others.
In times past, bored students generally distracted themselves with doodling, passing notes, whispering and giggling about anything that came to mind. Today, with what seems to be endless wireless technologies and the ubiquitous cell phone, students have other means to distract themselves or cure boredom. Between text messaging and surfing the Internet, there’s literally an endless amount of material available to keep their minds out of the classroom.
In an NEA online article, “Should We Ban Cell Phones in School?,” several teachers expressed their thoughts and opinions. A fourth-grade teacher in Tucson, Ariz., believes cell phones should “absolutely be banned from school.” The teacher said cell phones are “nothing but a disruption to class instruction. The student (if he or she is waiting for a call) thinks about nothing but receiving that call, therefore blocking out anything that is being said, and it’s simply not a necessity for being successful in school.”
On the other hand, a teacher in the Northern Tioga School District in Pennsylvania said that cell phones and other electronic devices can be a distraction, but “students need to learn when and where a cell phone can be appropriate….This is one of those life lessons we can teach them. Technology is a wonderful and useful tool when used properly.”
A Naval science instruction in Easton, Md., said that cell phones were banned in Maryland schools until 2004, when they were allowed for uses in emergencies. However, “our students have now figured out that they can cheat on quizzes and tests by ‘texting’ each other. Not only are phones distracting but now they are a cheating tool.”
In the press release, Simmers said she prefers to take what she calls a professional approach with her students when addressing the problem of students’ technology in the classroom. She said she discusses it as “meeting etiquette.” In other words, she asks them if they would be doing these distracting or off-topic activities if they were meeting with their employer or an important client.
Simmers said she will quickly take action when she sees a student’s mind wander to their cell phone. She said she brings “attention to students who are not on task. Making sure they know you know is important.” She also said she thinks this is serious enough that she will “give people an ‘F’ for classroom participation if they consistently exhibit this behavior. I have yet to fire someone from a class, but I would not hesitate to ask someone to leave if they persisted.”
In the online article, a Seattle, Wash., teacher said that cell phones “are part of the younger generation’s survival kit, just as Spalding high bounce balls were to those of us from the ‘5Os.” In this teacher’s classroom, however, there are rules and consequences regulating the use of cell phones. “If it rings during class, the student must surrender the phone and I get to answer it. Last year, I talked to two girlfriends, three boyfriends, and a mother. There were no repeat incidents.”
Press release, “Faculty Compete with Classroom Cell Phone and Laptop Use;” http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/534079/
Article, “Should we ban cell phones in school?”; http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3617/is_200402/ai_n9408441