Oct 12
Where Are You on Cell Phones?

Last week Amanda and I initiated a conversation about the future of classrooms and teaching.

So, this week we wanted to circle back to an existing classroom challenge that will only become more embedded in the classroom of the future – technology.

Today we are keen to crowdsource your perspective and practices on cell phones in the classroom/shop/lab.

  • Do you allow cell phones in your classroom?
  • If not, why?
  • If so, do you have any parameters for students?
  • What are the consequences if students do not follow the rules?
  • How can cell phones be an effective tool for teaching for learning?


Please sign in on the top right, and then add your comments to the discussion.


No, I do not allow the use ...

No, I do not allow the use of cell phones in the classroom. I have before and nothing great came of it. So for the last few years I was clear with the students that we are adults and do not need to succumb to the need to have it on us at all times. I have a desk at the front of the class. The students will place their phones on this desk as soon as class starts. ringers off but phones still on. I provide the common charging cables so the students can keep their phones charged. when break time comes, they grab their phones and go. if they are expecting and important call, then they are allowed to keep it on them.
if we need to research something, I will ask the students to grab their phone and do a quick search, but this isn't often.

if a student keeps their phone on them and it goes off, or they are found to be using it when they shouldn't, they are asked to leave class, no arguments, no fights just "ok, you know the rules, see ya" and they get up and leave. it works, its simply following the rules without babying them. these rules are stated on the first day of class.

cellphones can be a decent tool when the classroom lacks technology. they can view ppts when I post them on learn, they can do quick searches to help them understand something, but the downsides out weight the upsides. too many distractions, too many notifications coming through where they feel the need to check it.
Picture Placeholder: Rahim S Hosein
  • Rahim S Hosein
 on 10/12/2018 8:59 AM

Yes, students use their pho...

Yes, students use their phones in class. I often will ask a student to Google something, look up a definition, text an idea to another in the class, create a quick digital story, or take photos. I use my cel phone to take pictures of activities going on in the class, that I use to document process. I create learning stories of opportunities in the classroom and then share with the learners - it's modeling what they learning about - documenting children's play - and it's fun to revisit the learning that happened.

My basic philosophy is that if a class is engaging, learners will usually choose to attend to what's going on in class. When they get bored that's when they start fiddling with them. I'm acutely aware of these times if/when they occur, so it's a cue to me to consider differentiated teaching methods.

When I do feel badly about cel phones is when learners use them as their only tech device, so looking at PPTs must be a huge strain on their eyes.
Picture Placeholder: Ruth Lindsey-Armstrong
  • Ruth Lindsey-Armstrong
 on 10/12/2018 10:04 AM

I've come around to a YES o...

I've come around to a YES on cell phones. At first, I fought them and said no phones in the classroom, but now embrace the potential they represent. True, they can be - and are - distracting, but I feel the benefits of connectivity through them outweighs the downside of distraction.
Picture Placeholder: Amanda  Le Rougetel
  • Amanda Le Rougetel
 on 10/12/2018 11:10 AM

Thanks for your thoughtful ...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

I must admit I find this a tricky issue. When I first started teaching, it was a big bother to me. There are so many things to observe and respond to in a classroom, that I found it very distracting to me.

However, as I’ve gained more confidence in my practice, I tend to leave the issue alone. My view is that they are adults and can make their own decision about how much they want to get out of class. I spend more effort on designing engaging student-centered lessons and incorporating their devices as tools.

From time to time when it’s really distracting to me I will still ask a student to put it away.

One parameter that is important to me though, is when other students are presenting then I ask the class to put their devices away and be the type of audience they would appreciate if they were the one presenting.

The one question I still wonder about though – how do the other students feel about my more laissez-faire approach? If you’re a student who is trying to pay attention and engage with the material, how distracting is it to sit beside someone who is texting, for example? I’d welcome your views on this piece.

For more fodder on this topic, check out this article from Faculty Focus:
Picture Placeholder: Janine Carmichael
  • Janine Carmichael
 on 10/12/2018 11:27 AM

Personally, at the moment I...

Personally, at the moment I do not allow cell phones. However, I got a great suggestion from an instructor at another institution... Cell phones are becoming more a part of our everyday use.  We search online on them, send emails, and almost everything else on a daily basis.  They can be a productive part of the classroom.  The suggestion, that has been tested, is to allow the students to come up with the cell phone usage policy on day 1.  It was noted that the students were self monitoring this. They would step outside of the classroom if they received an important call, and used it effectively in the classroom.  It takes the strain of you having to come up with the rules away.  And because the expectations are set by the class, they have a sense of buy in to conform to their own rules!
Picture Placeholder: Sheryl Vallee
  • Sheryl Vallee
 on 10/12/2018 12:29 PM

Sheryl I like that Idea! I ...

Sheryl I like that Idea! I have recently begun to teach using online WebEx for classes that teach to 2 or more sites. For the ones who have the WebEx broadcast and don't have a computer in front of them for chat -to ask questions, I have asked them to use their cell phone to text me their questions. At first I provided them my cell phone number, now we have graduated to the "slack" app for the course; t is very good, it's a text based instant messenger service used by business.
I also teach technology, therefore I ask them to use their cell phones as an integral part of some lessons.  Some courses I have them review smartphone apps for use in the course. Moving forward one app at a time!
Picture Placeholder: Diane Brandson
  • Diane Brandson
 on 10/13/2018 4:45 PM

I appreciate the conversati...

I appreciate the conversation and value the input each of you have shared.  I'm still figuring out the use of cell phones in the classroom.  Currently students can have them in the classroom, but away during presentations by students or myself.  Thanks for sharing your experiences, your successes and your challenges.
Picture Placeholder: Karen L Wowk
  • Karen L Wowk
 on 10/14/2018 8:31 PM