Posted on 7 Comments

Teach Cell Phones, Don’t ban them

I have been a long time advocate of incorporating cell phones into the schools. Cell phones are one of the many tools that will be essential to our children’s success as adults. Cell phones are still in their infancy. In the not too distance future, cell phones will begin to replace credit cards as a means of purchasing products. Two way video conferencing through cell phones is already here and it will be the norm by the time today’s middle schoolers graduate high school. Cell phones interact with the Internet to enhance communication and provide faster research. I can get more detailed information through my phone and the Internet faster than I can using 411 information services. I can see pictures and video from my cell phone to the Internet which a student could use as part of an interview or research project. The possibilities are endless. Effective use of the multimedia (sound, video, text, animation), and productivity tools built into their cell phones will help make our students successful as professional adults.

I advocate teaching cell phone usage in the schools rather than branding them as contraband. I am not alone.

Craik School in Saskatchewan Canada is exploring the use of cellphones as learning tools. This video highlights the work of Carla Dolman and Gord Taylor and the grade 8 and 9 students of Craik School. [Source, Youtube]

Dean Shareski shares some of his discoveries in Exploring Cellphones as Learning Tools.

  • Engagement. …the cellphone novelty will soon pass, the engagement was with the ideas and sharing. Students … simply used them to share ideas, pictures, sounds and videos. …
  • Responsibility. Clearly posted on the wall were a set of guidelines developed by the students and their teacher on how to use this tool wisely. Discussions of etiquette, manners, privacy and safety led them to their common understandings. …
  • Innovation and Problem Solving. Students discovered their phones were also organizers, voice recorders, and multimedia creators. They discovered bluetooth was a great way to share files, they created concise summaries of their group discussions using voice memos or videos.
  • Teacher as a Learner. Carla says she still can’t "T9" like her students, but she’s learning. … She texts her students in the morning to remind them of homework and they actually respond. That in itself is one positive outcome already.

[Source, Exploring Cellphones as Learning Tools, Ideas and Thoughts, Feb 5, 2008]

Please see the Ideas and Thoughts full post. I like the note that the teacher was able to text reminders to the students. Just imagine if students learned to Sandy to remind them of deadlines. What if a teacher could prompt the students to "take out your cell phones and enter these dates" or if the teacher could deliver the deadlines via xml, sms, or direct interaction with Sandy!

The schools need to teach the technology that is coming not the technology that is bygone.

Update: New York doesn’t get it.

Update 23 Apr 2008: Another good video.

7 thoughts on “Teach Cell Phones, Don’t ban them

  1. They won’t ever be used as anything but gossip devices if we don’t regulate our own kids’ texting habits early…

  2. I think that’s part of what incorporating them into the curriculum could do under the “responsibility” bullet above. Naturally, as with all things scholastic, I am not implying the burden be placed solely upon the schools. Parents must be involved in teaching and reinforcing the habits.

  3. I wouldn’t be in favor of this because I think the jury is going to be out for quite a long time on whether cellphones are potentially harmful to young brains. is one site that makes some good points against having kids using cellphones.

    BTW, came here from your twitter tweet about this page.

  4. Aren’t you also risking a class division, as the wealthier kids will be able to afford the phones with all those features, but the poorer kids won’t?

    Also, you speak of all the things cell phone can (and likely will) be in the future – video conferencing, credit card purchasing – but they’re not available now, and I see no reason to relax restrictions on their use until they’re actually practical in an educational setting.

    I don’t mind they’re being safely tucked away in a backpack, off until after school but during school hours if they need to get in touch with mom or mom needs to get in touch with them, there’ve always been ways to do that since time began through the school office. And it reduces the opportunity for cheating if they don’t have them in the classroom.

    There’s nothing wrong with teachers using them for updates and reminders after school hours, but email works just as well. It’s just the students have somehow turned their back on email in favor of – ugh! – Facebook and MySpace as a communication medium. Defies explanation…

  5. The problem is that it is extremely difficult to make sure that students aren’t using them to text students in other rooms during the class period. I have had to deal with students more than 20 times this year about texting during class to other students, and that’s with a punishment of in-school suspension for repeated offenses (and no ban, just a rule that cell phones should be off during the school day). I teach high schoolers, who are by far more intelligent and likely to try and weasel around rules than middle schoolers.

    I have students playing video games on their graphing calculators more often than using them for classwork, and that’s with our teaching them what graphing calculators can do. The thought that this answer to this is as easy as “let’s just show them what it can do and tell them what they can’t use them for” is naive.

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