Ethics: A basis for cellphones in class

17 04 2009

Many folks argue that cell phones don’t belong in the school setting.  In an NEA article, teachers are surveyed about their opinions of cell phones in class. Most opinons in this national survey are very biased and narrow minded.  These apprehensive teachers are not only unaware of the advantages to cell phones as a learning tool, but they themselves seemed threatened.  Certainly we can all make a list of reasons to ban phones from class use but how many can come up with reasons to support the use of this Web 2.0 tool?  Among many cell phone applications available for free online, their are some life long lessons that cell phones can help educators convey to their students.  Schools and teachers who support the use of cell phones in class comes down to a matter of teachers pedagogical attitude towards using technology.  The greatest lessons that I teach as a an educator deal less with content and more with life lessons.  Lessons regarding decision making, moral attitudes, and ethics are the ones that leave students engaged, inspired, and thinking..

“Why would you give out your phone number to students?  Why would you invite students to text to other students in class?  Aren’t you worried they will use this network to cheat?”

These questions are fair to ask in this debate.  However, the discussion that can be followed with students in class regarding ethical use of phones is a much greater discussion.  How can we use these tools to our advantage?  These are the questions teachers need to focus on.  Otherwise we run the risk of being another stick on the mud.  Advocates of cell phones in class point out the benefit to schools tech departments, when you consider 4 out of 5 students have cell phones, this increases the number of computers available to students instantly.  Leaders of schools who use cell phones in class have created rules that students can agree to and learn by.  Kipp Rodgers, Principal of Mary Passage Middle School in Newport News, Vrigina, “developed an acceptable use policy. They are not to send text messages to anyone outside the building during class hours. They are not to take photos. They are not allowed to upload anything to YouTube or other Internet sites not approved by the school.”  These rules create a sense of right, which students need more and more in this ever dynamic technology society.  Students engage in learning, feel connected to the real world, and adopt a fair use policy.  In my own classroom setting, I find that kids are aware of all the negatives that teachers and parents fear about inapproriate use of the internet and technology.  When we open up the discussion with kids, instead of dictating our our bias’, we create a world of self-awareness and community.




6 responses

17 04 2009

I had this conversation/debate with my curriculum director in an impromptu meeting yesterday. I wish I had read your blog earlier so I could cite some of the websites you used to make your point. I will definitely pass along the blog entitled “From Toys to Tools: Cell Phones in Learning.” ( The site has great ideas for teachers at all level about how cell phones can be used in the classroom. I especially like the idea about using cell phones for students who are deaf and/or hard of hearing. I wonder if a cell phone program will replace my student’s laptop, which uses a voice recognition software to transcribe my lectures.

19 04 2009

It amazes me that there are still debates and banning practices going on around cellphones. It just shows how behind the institution of education is in regards to accepting the tools necessary for communication and learning in the 21st century.

I give my cell phone number out to my students, and they’ve never abused it. I even give them the option to do a weekly reflection via a SMS if they are not at a computer when they are inspired to write it. I also tell them it’s ok to use abbreviations in this instance so that the writing is authentic to the medium (of course, they can’t use SMS abbreviations when doing the reflection or other work online).

In the classroom with cellphones, it just boils down to classroom management and teaching practice. This is the same when working in a 1-1 laptop environment. When the technology is harnessed in transparent and positive ways and an engaging and relevant curriculum is in place, most of the problems that occur will wash away.

19 04 2009

The cell phone rule in my school is as follows: Any student caught using a cell phone in school will have one two-hour after school detention or the cell phone locked in the safe for two days. How antiquated is that? However, this applies to the students of the teachers who oppose cell phones. I bookmarked the cell phone tool article from your blog and intend to incorporate cell phones in my classroom as soon as the infernal state testing is over this coming week. Thanks for the great information, Seann!

19 04 2009


I am in agreement! I talked with a fellow teacher at my school the other day and he broke the rule on cell phones in his classroom. He allowed them to text the answers to questions in a review. The first text he received that had the correct answer was given a prize for each question.
I use a Jeopardy game for review in my classroom and had been trying to come up with the best way to get the answer from the first group who raised their hand. NOW I KNOW! So I plan to use this method next time we review in class.

Wonderful information!

19 04 2009

When anyone says their are few computers in the classroom, I just say what about cell phones. Most students have cell phones, with at least text messaging if not internet. You are right, we need to use this technology instead of banding it.

Linda Burns

20 04 2009

Seann, right on as usual. You research and timing are impeccable. I found a site called poll everywhere that allows you to take a real time poll of your class using SMS or texting. I approached my principle for permission to use this site in class as a way of getting and tracking formative assessment data. This is what we have been focusing on as a school all year, common formative assessments with longitudinal data. I was shot down! He was more afraid of what it would “look like” then the value of it. I am there with you man.

Excellent links and resources, nice post!

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