News, Technology

Schools Divided Over Cellphones In Classrooms

iPhone. Image: Ausis
iPhone. Image: Ausis

A fight between two high school students in Nova Scotia last month has underlined some of the concerns parents and teachers have about cellphones in schools.

When the fight broke out between two girls at the school, another student recorded it with a cellphone and uploaded it to the Internet.

Some parents think the fight was deliberately provoked so it could be shared online. The school is concerned because once something has been posted online it can be difficult to get it removed.

Cellphone use among students has been increasing rapidly. About 85 per cent of grade 11 students in Canada now have their own cellphones. More than half (52 per cent) of grade seven students and 24 per cent of grade four students also carry cellphones.

Many schools say students must turn their phones off and leave them in their backpacks or lockers during school hours.

One of the main reasons for banning cellphones is that they can distract students from their work. Many of these phones are “smartphones,” which means they can also be used to surf the Internet, send text messages, access social media sites, play games, take pictures and listen to music.

In a recent survey of university students in the United States, the students admitted they sent as many as 10 texts during class, and used their laptops for things other than schoolwork for more than half the time they were in class.

Schools also ban cellphones because they are concerned that students will use them to cheat on tests, or to record videos of teachers or other students and post them online.

Many parents are concerned about cellphone use at school. Some are worried that phones could be used for cyberbullying or to arrange fights. Others feel that their children already spend too much time using cellphones and computers. They would rather have them listening and talking to people when they are at school.

But other parents want to be able to reach their children during the day and are in favour of schools allowing students to have access to their phones.

That is one reason why New York City is lifting its ban on cellphones in schools. Up until now, students at high schools in the city have not been allowed to bring their cellphones to school. Instead, many leave them at nearby stores that charge about a dollar a day to keep the phones during school hours. (See: Daycare for Cellphones?, TKN, April 25, 2014.)

But the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, says he believes it is very important for parents to be able to reach their children during the day. Now the city’s school board is trying to find the best way to allow phones in schools but avoid the problems they can cause.

Some people think cellphones could be actually be useful in school. They believe teachers should encourage students to use them in class to do research on the Internet or view educational videos online.

This can be especially useful in schools where there aren’t enough computers for every student to have one.

Some teachers are using cellphone applications, or “apps,” that allow students to work on group projects using their phones. There are also apps that allow teachers to use their phones to collect and share material, send out reminders to the class, and use games and quizzes related to class work.

People in favour of allowing cellphone use in schools say that children today are growing up surrounded by electronic devices. The goal of schools should not be to ban cellphones, but to teach students how to use them responsibly.

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By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Do you have a cell phone? Do your friends have cell phones? How and when do you use your phones?

Do you ever use them for school work? If so, how do they help you? If not, do you think phones should be allowed in classrooms?

Reading Prompt: Point of View
There are many different points of view discussed in this article. What are they? Are there any perspectives that are missing?

Identify the point of view presented in texts, ask questions to identify missing or possible alternative points of view, and suggest some possible alternative perspectives. (OME, Reading: 1.9)

Identify the point of view presented in texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts; give evidence of any biases they may contain; and suggest other possible perspectives. (OME, Reading: 1.9)

Language Feature: Texting Language 
One of the main uses that people have for cell phones is texting. Texts are meant to be short messages. In order to write short messages, people often write using ‘texting language’. For example, instead of writing “see you later”, they may text “c u l8tr”.

What ‘text speak’ do you know?