Do cellphones belong in the classroom?

The announcement this week that Portage High School would be banning cellphones from the classroom this fall has generated a lot of reaction on both sides of the issue. While many believe cellphones distract from learning in the classroom, others believe they can be used to supplement learning. At the same time, some parents like the idea of always being able to reach their children via cellphone.

“Oh, it will be a challenge,” Portage High School Principal Robin Kvalo told the Wisconsin State Journal, “because our young people, as well as adults, are addicted to their phones.”

According to the State Journal, Assistant Principal Matt Paulsen said research shows “scores go up as soon as (phones) went out of the room.” One such study, shared by researchers from the University of Texas in 2015, suggested banning phones in classrooms was equivalent to adding five days to the school year. The study claimed test scores among teens in England improved by about six points after the classrooms banned phones.

But many educators welcome cellphones into the classroom, with some rules on how they can be used. The NEA recently ran an article about how teaching veteran Ken Halla welcomes cellphones into his classroom. With their easy internet access, a multitude of education-friendly apps, and the ability to be used at a moment’s notice (after all, what smartphone-owning teenager would go anywhere without their phone?), smartphones have all the tools necessary to boost student learning, he says. (Read more.)

One veteran teacher, commenting on the WEAC Facebook page, put it this way:

“Been teaching for 27 years. I have never had a problem with a student disrupting the class by using their cellphone. Teacher states the obvious, ‘don’t be messing with your phone while I am talking’, and students pretty much respect that. More of an imagined problem than a real problem.”

Many of the comments on the WEAC Facebook page, however, support the idea of banning the cellphones in the classroom (add your comment):

This Atlantic article further explores the issue of cellphones in classrooms:

Should Smartphones Be Banned From Classrooms?

From middle schools to colleges, cellphones’ adverse effects on student achievement may outweigh their potential as a learning tool. LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Walking the hallways between classes at Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Kentucky, I dodge students whose heads are turned down to glowing screens. Earbuds and brightly colored headphones are everywhere.

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