Controlling Mobile Phone Use in Schools

So it looks like the majority of schools out there really don't care to allow mobile phones in the classroom (aka those pesky "little internet machines" - hat tip to Mr. Higgins). As of this writing, roughly 90% of respondents claim that their school actually bans the use of mobile phones in the classroom, regardless of teacher preferences.

Sure, they're cool. Sure, they're engaging (surprise). But the truth is that even we adults honestly don't know how to control the use of mobile phones. We're as bad as the kids when it comes to not understanding (or not being willing to comply within) the limits of appropriate and non-appropriate use. This truth hit home the other day when I snapped this picture while waiting to place my order at a McDonald's drive-thru window.

(Taken, of course, with the camera in my cellphone)

Sheesh. Not even Ronald McDonald wants me to multitask. Do you think we have a problem here? Unbelievable.

The real issue for me, nevertheless, lies in the fact that we are the teachers. We ARE the teachers. Aren't we?
  • Are we not the ones that were hired because of our abilities to manage a room full of kids?
  • Are we really not capable of figuring out how to monitor and guide our students in their educational use of mobile phones?
  • Do we not have the responsibility to teach proper etiquette in using these new technologies?
  • Is banning really the only way to manage this issue or is it really just the easy way out?

Onward and Upward

On a positive note and in a positive direction, Liz Kolb has been blazing the trail when it comes to using mobile phones to teach and to learn. In a recent Twitter conversation, she shared the rules that she uses to govern her students' in-class mobile phone use. Ironically, these rules were created by the students themselves (again, if we can't beat 'em, why don't we join 'em?):
  1. Phone ringers must be set to vibrate at all times.
  2. Phones are placed at the front of the room, away from all students, when they are not in use as a class.
  3. All media/messages must be course related.
  4. All media published about/of others must be approved by them.
  5. All messages can be accessed at any time (through cellphone companies - no message/media is private)!
In order to monitor her students' progress and behavior, Mrs. Kolb says that she simply uses web sites that back up messages and media (Flickr mobile, Utterz, Gcast, and Jott all have this capability). She then uses these sites in the classroom, live, as the assignments are happening. By watching the media come in (and by noticing when the media is sent), a teacher can then tell which students are on task and which ones are not.

Bravo, Liz, and hanks for your shining example!

Now excuse me a minute while I go take this call.

Image Source: Flickr users RSEanes and yewenyi

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