Cell phone use in the classroom is a hot topic right now, as we have definitely entered the age of smartphones. There are strong opinions on both sides of the issue, and by the way, a lot of research out there on the matter. FYI: “Listening to music while I study helps me,” is a lie students are telling themselves, check out this study to see the negative effects of that little habit.
With more and more apps out there geared towards using smartphones as tools for teaching and our shrinking wallets. (Survey’s show over 90% of teachers use their own money to help supply their classrooms). It is hard not to lean towards allowing smartphone use when appropriate. Before you open those flood gates though, it is important to consider a few things.
School/District Cell Phone Policy:
Make sure that you are aware of your school’s policy on cell phone use. If you plan to allow smartphones to be used in your classroom get permission from your principal (preferably in writing). I always put my rules surrounding useage in my syllabus for parents to sign. I also email a copy to my principal, so there is a record in case an issue arises.
Set Clear Rules and Expectations for Smartphones:
If you are going to allow smartphone use for classroom activities, make sure that your rules state where the phone is to be kept when not in use. Some things to consider are:
- How will you let students know when cell phones are to be brought to class? (List it as homework, place a green card for yes or a red card for no on the outside of your door as a signal, etc…)
- What will students who do not have a smartphone be expected to do? (i.e. work with a partner that has a smartphone, record answers on paper) If students are in groups and only using one smartphone, who is allowed to handle that phone (all members? only the owner?)
- When using a tool like Poll Everywhere or Kahoot, what the students are doing is pretty straightforward. If you are using smartphones in a different way such as for research, or to post to a discussion board, or take video; make sure that you have clear expectations. (We recommend writing them on the board to be referred back to)
- Be prepared to walk an extra mile or two that day. Be on your feet! Don’t allow students the opportunity to use their phone in a way that could cause trouble for them or you. (CLICK HERE if you need some comfy shoe suggestions.)
- Where will the smartphones be kept when not being used during class? (i.e. on the corner of the desk, in a basket on the teacher’s desk, in the smartphone charging station)
This is one of the most creative ideas I’ve seen for managing cell phones in a positive way. To the teacher who thought this one up. We salute you! To create a cell phone charging station you will need a hanging pocket cell phone holder like THIS ONE and two or three power strips. We recommend THIS ONE because it has 12 outlets.
Students can be assigned a pocket number and check their phone in at the beginning of class and retrieve it at the end. This is something that might be useful in a school that has a more lenient cell phone policy that you are trying to work around. You can also use this if you are allowing smartphones for an activity, but the activity doesn’t take the whole class period. This ensures students will not be using them once the activity is completed. We suggest placing this on a low traffic wall that takes some getting to, so no phones go missing.
This is a FANTASTIC app if your school does not allow the use of cell phones and you would like to encourage students to keep their screens locked during the school day. The school sets the times and parameters and students who log in to the app and keep their screens locked during those times earn points. The points can be redeemed at local and online businesses for actual merchandise or services. The list of businesses is pretty impressive too (Wendy’s, Jersey Mike’s, Papa John’s, just to name a few). CLICK HERE to learn more about this app and how your school can join, so your students can start reaping the rewards!
Whatever your take is on Smartphones, make sure you work within your building and district policy, set clear expectations, and put it in writing. Know that if your school has a zero tolerance policy towards smartphones, that there are programs and ideas out there to encourage students to refrain from using their cell phones at school.