Teachers Fear Cell Phones In School: And how to overcome the fear
Dr. Kathie F. Nunley
A lifetime ago,
I remember math teachers who were frightened by the thought of allowing
us to use calculators in math class. They fought them for years and
years. I seriously remember them saying, "what would happen if
you find yourself on a desert island with no calculator?" Of
course none of us ever brought up the fact that if we were stranded
on a remote island, not having a calculator would be the least of our
problems. And of course, there was the obvious question of why exclude
a very wonderful learning aid simply for the sake of preparing for a
highly doubtful future scenario.
We see a similar
story being played out in schools today with cell phone use. Teachers
are scared to death of what they see as their biggest competition in
the classroom. I've met more than one teacher recently who was thinking
of retiring out of teaching simply because of student cell phones. How
can a person seiously consider leaving a profession because of one small
(but I'll admit, very powerful) addition? There are several reasons
for the fear:
Loss of Control:
Teachers are control freaks. We admit it. Teachers and Law Enforcement
Officers are the two biggest professions filled with people who have
a strong need for control. As long as students are looking at us and
listening to us and interacting with us or with materials directly given
to them by us, we feel in control.
Cell phones give
students a portal to the world outside our classroom, and in a very
private and personal format. Cell phones allow our students to leave
our room, without our permission or supervision. And that's just downright
A Threat to our
Authority as Keeper of All Knowledge: This has been an issue to
teachers since the dawn of the Internet. For decades, teachers were
seen as bright, intelligent people who held all the secrets to the universe
within them. People of all ages would gather around them to learn from
their vast storage of knowledge. We were seen as "the authority"
on any and all topics.
We quickly slid
way down on the totem pole of information sources once the Internet
came along. Who needs a teacher when you have Google? The role of the
teacher had to change very quickly from "distributor of information"
to "facilitator of learning." Many teachers have not adjusted
or even accepted that change in role.
the Technology: Let's face it, many of our students know more about
how to use their cell phone than we do. They have never known a world
without them. All our years of learning about how to use a dictionary,
a thesaurus, a card catalog, researching through the stacks, the use
of reference librarians, is of no use to us in the new world. We may
feel a bit lost and vulnerable.
Fear of the Very
Real Dangers of Cell Phones in School: We can't dismiss the very
real fact that students can get themselves into some serious trouble
via cell phones. Internet piracy, sexting, child predators, cyberbullying,
are all very real dangers. And we are responsible for the students in
our care. We genuinely care about them and want to protect these young
people who are not always capable of making good decisions.
Despite all the
reasons that we may want to ban cell phones in our classrooms, there
are many more
compelling reasons to allow them.
is here and our students are proficient with it. There is no learning
curve required for the student.
Most of our students
have access to them or can partner-up with classmates who do.
The number of
phone apps available today to assist learning is incredible. There
are ways for students to submit real time questions, participate in
group discussion, research, organize, collaborate, be accountable, compensate
for learning weakness and capitalize on their strengths.
need to learn about cell phones is appropriate use. The "when"
and "where" of cell phone use is important to their success
in the adult and business world. What better place for them to learn
this than in school.
Banning cell phones
because they can lead children into harmful situations is a bit like
banning teens from driving because they can die in a car accident. Just
like how we allow them to drive, we need to train students in the dangers
and risks and provide safety belts and limitations.
Cell phones solve
a lot of the BYOD (bring your own device) issues that schools are
struggling with today in attempting to integrate blended learning into
Parents want their
children to have cell phones with them in school. Businesses want students
to learn the appropriate use of cell phones. Students want to use cell
phones in all areas of their lives, including learning. It seems the
only stakeholders that are slow to get onboard are the teachers.
time to overcome your fears.
Ask your students
for help. If you are unfamiliar with certain apps, or are looking
for ideas on how to utilize student cell phones, involve your students
in the conversation. The best classrooms are those where the teacher
is another learner in the room.
Set ground rules.
Again, using input from students set up expectations about appropriate
time and place for cell phones for both student and teacher. How are
they to be used? When should they never be used? What is proper ettiquette
for cell phone use in a classroom and in social learning groups? What
are the positive consequences for appropriate use?
Use them! Differentiate
the learning processes in your room and utilize cell phones, tablets
and PCs for that purpose. You will not feel robbed of classroom control
if you are not expecting all students to be attending to the same thing
at the same time. Set up learning objectives and then offer students
a choice in learning activities. (See
F. Nunley is an educational psychologist, author, researcher and speaker
living in southern New Hampshire. Developer of the Layered Curriculum®
method of instruction, Dr. Nunley has authored several books and articles
on teaching in mixed-ability classrooms and other problems facing today's
teachers. Full references and additional teaching and parental tips
are available at: http://Help4Teachers.com Email her:
Kathie (at) brains.org
For more detailed
information, read the text
"Layered Curriculum" or the new supplement "Enhancing
your Layered Curriculum Classroom".
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