Mobiles in the classroom? …’Cell’ no

So, for the longest time the cell phone was (and still is to some extent) a pet hate of mine. Let me give you a scenario I witnessed recently…


A friend and I were enjoying a social coffee in a popular high street coffee shop, and next to us there was a mother and daughter, presumably there to enjoy similar. Both had a ‘triplemochachinalattewithcream’ (‘skinny’ of course), the mother was as clearly in the middle of a text conversation whilst her daughter was merrily playing a game on an iPad. I seriously couldn’t believe my eyes…I turned to my friend and discreetly said “now THAT is quality time if ever I saw it”. Now, this is my problem with cell phones and is the reason why I hate them in my classroom so much, people spend so much time looking down (and I too am prone to this occasionally) totally immersed in other peoples gossip or things that aren’t relevant at that point in time, that life sadly, passes them by. Maryellen Weimer Phd in Faculty Focus says

People everywhere are paying more attention to their devices than to those around them.

And I agree….and I hate it. It’s rude. Here’s a question, during meetings do you sit your mobile phone in front of you? Why? This is what this says to me “I may get a call in the next hour which I will likely prioritize over your meeting”…now, unless your expecting your wife to give birth or something equally important, then by the nature of being invited to a meeting, your wholehearted attention, and input is required.

…Same goes for the classroom. Please, let me know that you are awaiting an urgent phone call, thats fine, but a quick tweet #ohmygodthisclassissofrickinboring, no no my friend. Weiner also wrote in the same article

Research makes it abundantly clear that students can’t multitask, despite their beliefs to the contrary

I appreciate that Gen Y are typically good multitaskers due to the hyperconnected world we now live in, BUT there is no way that a person can digest a status update from their friend three seats down and legitimately understand the laws of thermodynamics.

So, I said that cell phones in class “used to be a pet hate of mine” (perhaps it still irritates me more than thought), I used past tense because I believe with ground rules set which minimize personal use, the cell phone is a fantastic tool. I have students who use nothing but their cell phones to write notes (due to their writing being that appalling that even they can’t read it), photograph key points or examples. Surely no self respecting teacher can deny a student a thorough set of study notes. In other classes, I have students who use Googledocs as an interactive tool, as we run through a topic, they can update documents viewed by all the class from their smart phone, this is another great example of how the cell phone can be used effectively which doesn’t involve duck faces or cats of instagram.

The original question…mobiles in the classroom? It depends on what for and if anyone sees me in a coffee shop scrolling through Facebook as my son googles ‘how to talk to my Dad’ please feel free to give me a reality check.


2 thoughts on “Mobiles in the classroom? …’Cell’ no

  1. My colleagues and I find this is a continuous struggle……how do we embrace and manage the technology in our classrooms? Is it really possible? I truly enjoyed reading your posts and appreciated the humor and reminders about what’s really important in life…….I hope your coffee shop neighbor also reads your posts! 😉
    Thank you


  2. Thank YOU Julie, what started as a project has become something I thoroughly enjoy. Its really great to see people reading and apparently enjoying my posts.

    “How do we embrace and manage the technology in our classrooms?” In my opinion, it has to start with bidirectional trust and respect. In todays society It’s almost impossible for us to limit unwanted or irrelevant use in the classroom. That said, I recently heard of a teacher using cell phones as a way to ‘register’ in class, by popping the phones into a slot on the classroom wall next to the students name. My students use their phones as notebooks and I trust them to only use them in that capacity, I’m sure there is the occasional Facebook update or Snapchat, but mutually they trust that the content we cover in class is relevant to them. If we stop trying to keep our lessons ‘fresh’ (i.e. not embracing new technologies) then it would be quickly conceived as a lack of effort from the learners perspective which of course would only have one outcome.

    I think a great way to embrace technology is to use ideas that have been suggested by the class. If you are like me, accept the fact that the students typically more advanced, technologically speaking.


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