In or Out: Cellphones and Devices in the Classroom

You are sitting in your three-hour class taking notes as the Professor talks about what’s going to be on the next quiz, then your phone begins to buzz and scream in your backpack. What do you do? More importantly, what can you do? What does your teacher allow you to do?


In a constantly growing technical world, a large debate has been occurring on whether cellphones should be permitted in the classroom. Some of the population believes cellphones should be allowed in the classroom for they are a distraction and used inappropriately during class time, while the other half disagrees and believes cellphones can positively impact education and the classroom.


The National Education Association says “With their easy internet access, a multitude of education-friendly apps, and the ability to be used at a moment’s notice, smartphones have all the tools necessary to boost student learning.”


The NEA argues that smartphones are beneficial to student growth and learning, for they have all the tools necessary to enhance their knowledge. Cellphones can be used for more than just texting and social media when in a lecture. Phones are filled with a plethora of educational apps, e-books, and other access that can enhance a student’s academic experience.


Here at the University of San Francisco, senior Alexis McCadney agrees with the idea of cellphones being permitted in the classroom and being used for educational purposes.


McCadney says she thinks cellphones should be permitted in the classroom. She has had classes where phones were permitted, and some where they were not. She favors those classes that allows cellphones for she discusses how she “depends on cell phones in order to access the readings they put online. In some classes the desks are so small that it is sometimes impossible to fit a book and a notebook comfortably on it, whereas with a cell phone you can read and easily take notes in class”. She also comments “Having access to phones in class cuts down on the number of books I have to carry and the amount of paper I have to print out”.


Alexis discusses how cellphones are not only easier to access than devices like a laptop, but the small size is also convenient when put into certain classrooms. While many students carry a laptop or tablet, some students find a phone more convenient, light, and affordable. It can also be easier since most students already carry their cellphones.


However, a part of the population still believes cellphones are a distraction that should stay in students’ backpacks. It is often believed that whenever a student is on their phone in the classroom, they are texting their friends or updating their status on social media.


Researchers at the University of Texas and Louisiana State conducted a survey that demonstrates how cellphones harm a child’s learning experience.


The researchers studied school cellphone policies across the country and concluded “exam scores climbed by as much as 6 percent in classrooms with strict bans on cellphones”. The researchers also found “the impact of banning phones for these students equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days”.


Those against cellphones in the classroom argue they only produce harm for children in the classroom, since they serve as a distraction. However, once cellphones are removed from the classroom many agree learning becomes a priority and productive in the classroom.


USF junior Cristina Herrera agrees. She says cellphones are not permitted in any of her classes this semester, they’re only allowed during breaks. She agrees with the reasons her professors ban cellphone use in the classroom. She says “I don’t think students should be permitted to use phones during class time. We are constantly on our phones throughout the day and we are investing so much by being able to attend this university, so we should be able to detach from our phones for 1-2 hours or however long our classes are”. 


For Herrera, phones should be prohibited in the classroom for they keep us from our investment in our education and our investment in our tuition. They take away from focus on the curriculum and our learning, and can be disrespectful to professors.


Cellphones in the classroom is a constant debate in today’s technology world. Ball State University’s study shows that 99.8 percent of college students own cellphones, and the numbers only seems to be growing.


Because of this, many schools are deciding to surrender their white flag to the cellphone phenomena, but only permitting educational use in the classroom. Classrooms, like technology, is constantly changing to adapt to its students. With the increase in cellphones and cellphone use, more classrooms are becoming phone-friendly. Many classrooms use apps, partner systems, and much more on the students’ smartphones. And, to be sure the students are not distracted with temptations on their apple phones, many schools are creating cellphone policies to go with the permission of phones in the class.


Ken Halla, a 22-year teaching veteran, shared some tips on effective cellphone use in the classroom. To manage phones Halla recommends:

  • roaming around the classroom during lecture (which allows him to keep track of whether students are using cellphones properly) instead of a traditional lecture where he is in front of the classroom,
  • using apps for homework and for curriculum to decrease distraction and increase classroom productivity,
  • letting students listen to music (with earphones) on their devices during work time.


Ken Halla was able to turn cellphones into a positive object in his classroom. Many other teachers around the globe have also found positive outlets for phones in the classroom, yet some teachers stick to the traditional opinion that cellphones do not belong in the classroom. But, the motif of this long-winded debate is, is there more harm or benefits to the allowance of our small rectangular devices in classrooms?

Thanks for reading! How do you feel about cellphones in the classroom? Let me know in the comments below! Also, please subscribe below to be entered to win cool prizes each month. 

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