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?"
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.
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 scary.
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.
with 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
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
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.
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.
solve a lot of the BYOD (bring your own device) issues that
schools are struggling with today in attempting to integrate blended
learning into every course.
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
time to overcome your fears.
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.
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?
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 Layered Curriculum)
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and
author of several books on parenting and teaching, including A
Student's Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating
the High School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer
of the Layered Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked
with parents and educators around the world to better structure
schools to make brain-friendly environments. In addition, her
work has been used by the Boeing Corporation, Family Circle Magazine,
the Washington Post, and ABC television.
her: Kathie (at) brains.org