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The Continuing Debate: Should Students Be Allowed to Use Cellphones in Class?

Posted on 11/28/2018

Student in front of a classroom

A recent article explored teachers’ opinions about student use of cellphones in the classroom, a topic that has been discussed for a few years now and remains contentious. The ubiquity of handheld devices compels teachers and schools to have policies in place, either for or against or somewhere in the middle, to deal with students and their devices.

Some teachers are all-in on cellphones, planning for their use in lessons. Students can use their phones for research, for translation, and for how-to videos, recording experiments and lectures, and in a few cases, to teleconference into class if they are sick. Some teachers, on the other hand, have banned them all together, convinced they are a distraction and unable to overcome the allure of the electronic device. Those teachers have come up with ways to have students check their phones into a secure location before class and retrieve them at the end of class; some schools have the entire student body check their phones in when they arrive at school. One of the first studies of cellphone use in the classroom, a study entitled “Dividing attention in the classroom reduces exam performance,” would seem to bolster the claim that allowing cellphone use in the classroom negatively affects students’ long-term retention of what is being taught, in turn affecting their performance on classroom assessments.

A recent development on cellphone use in schools is the discrepancy between schools actively purchasing other devices for students to use like desktop computers, laptops, and tablets, and using technology for administrative functions, but not allowing or restricting access to cellphones. Perhaps situations like this help educators better zero in on the place of school and personal devices in class and the most effective uses of devices and applications in the learning process. It seems, then, that we still have a ways to go before consensus on student use of cellphones in the classroom.

Source: Should students be allowed to use cellphones in class? It depends External link opens in new window or tab .

Study: Dividing attention in the classroom reduces exam performance External link opens in new window or tab