When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, some refused to embrace his life-altering invention and continued to light their rooms with candlelight. How well-equipped would we be today if our teachers were so anti-technology that they refused to teach us how to type on a typewriter or computer? If you’re not integrating cell phones in the classroom you are crippling your students.
Cell phones are how we communicate with the world today. When you ask a student to lock up their phone, you’re telling them that their sick daughter at home isn’t important, or that their dad’s surgery outcome doesn’t matter, or that you really don’t care about anything in their life outside of your classroom.
How do we know our students are using their phones? Their heads are down, their hands are under the table and they all touch their pockets at the sound of a vibration. If you require cell phones to be locked up, you’re giving your students so much anxiety that they simply won’t be able to concentrate. This is a battle you aren’t going to win, so quit fighting it!
Here are my rules for cell phones in the classroom
■ Cell phones must be on silent, not vibrate. We all know our ringtones. If you hear a phone ring and it’s not your ringtone, you simply don’t care and ignore it. If a phone vibrates, everyone looks for their phone, thinking it could be theirs. My rule is to turn the phone to silent.
■ Put them on the desk upside down. Students feel at ease just simply having their phone in sight. They can see it and they can feel it—but the screen must be facing down on the desk.
■ Integrate them into your class. Below I’ll share some tips for using them in your class, but make sure your students know that they will get to use them at times. They’ll look forward to this.
■ Have them agree to your terms. My students know these rules. They also know if they break them, they’ll forfeit the privilege of using them in the class for that day. I make every student raise their hand to agree to my terms. Trust me, if the alternative is to lock them up, they’ll agree.
■ Never take away a phone. This is their personal property. A good teacher can be in control of the class without such harsh punishment. A student would rather you take the keys to their car than to take away their phone. Don’t lose their respect by doing this.
Ways to integrate cells phones in the classroom
■ Instagram. Have them snap a picture of something they’re working on and Instagram the picture using a specific hashtag.
■ Surveys. Use an online system (like Survey Monkey) to create a survey and share the link with your students to take the survey. This is a great way to get immediate feedback or a way to get statistics to share in a lesson.
■ Facebook. Find some educational fan pages that are relevant to their learning and have them “like” those pages. You can even discuss some of the content on those pages. You can also set up a Private Facebook group for them to join, where students can converse with each other and where you can share homework assignments, etc.
■ Search engines. This is always a great game for students. Ask questions and have them search for the answers online.
When you do these activities, will they quickly view their text messages, check their email and social media notifications? Of course—but who cares? They’ll do it so quickly that it usually isn’t even a distraction. If they’re still participating and following your rules, let it go. This is a battle I simply wouldn’t choose. Be sure you stay within these parameters and hold your students accountable. Our world today is driven by the use of technology. Integrating social media will only help them in the long run. Never underestimate the power of an educator!