Should students be allowed to use cell phones on all assignments and assessments?

North Scott High School in Eldridge, Iowa is allowing students to use their cell phones for practice tests. Teachers are using PollEverywhere to assess students’ knowledge and see what course material needs additional attention.

BusinessbabyIt would be even better if all schools, including North Scott, allowed students to use their cell phones for any assignment or assessment. A world’s worth of information is now at our fingertips, anytime and anywhere. If we permitted students to instantly look up any low-level factual recall knowledge – like we adults do daily in the real world – wouldn’t this force schools to employ better, more complex assessments that got at higher levels of understanding? I think it might!

Kudos to North Scott High for starting the journey of figuring out how to integrate into classroom instruction and assessment the powerful mobile computers that their students carry with them every day. Now, is it ready for the next step? Is your school?

Image credit: Business baby

86 Responses to “Should students be allowed to use cell phones on all assignments and assessments?”

  1. There is a good book written on this topic called: FEED by M.T. Anderson. I recommend it.

    I agree it will stretch their learning.

    My son goes to Terra Environmental Institute (high school) in Miami. My daughter goes to Young Woman’s Preparatory Academy. Both of those schools encourage cell phone use for note taking and research. I would love for them to allow for assessment also.

    We should try this on one subject and see how far it stretches them.

    • FEED was written as a worst case scenario. It is our reliance on technology for the information as a crutch. When people lost that connection they were clueless.

      Scott is speaking about using it to advance your learning; not as a crutch.

  2. All I can say is Amen. As a new 1:1 one school district, I’m seeing good “stuff” projects etc happening in classrooms. I understand we are learning, growing, encountering new celebrations/concerns. All that being said, I can’t wait until the day when low level exams are not given, EVER in our building. What is the purpose???

    This was an awesome blog post of which my staff will discuss at team meetings next week. Thanks for provoking thought @mcleod

  3. Scott,

    This is great conversation! I want to use this blog as a class assignment for my 6th graders to read and respond. Do you oppose having 20 or more comments from 6th graders?

    • Chris, all comments are welcome here, particularly from students!

    • Some of the tests that we are required to take are sometimes hard and we can’t even use our electronics because they think we are going to cheat, but if they would just trust us to use them we probably can make better grades than we usually do in school. So I do agree with this statement

  4. Yes, yes, yes! Do we allow them to use other technology – indoor lighting, pens, pencils?

    • Mark,

      Advances like lighting, pens, and pencils were ok but phone technology is “cheating.” Ha ha.

      Actually, there was a push from teachers against the use of pens. This is all to be expected. Once we come to terms with it we can all continue to push and pull people into the ‘Shift.’

      • Roderick – You are going to love this. Last late winter, as part of the district budget process, I brought forth a recommendation to re-allocate resources toward 21st Century Learning. When some anguished how tech had become a black hole since our 1-1 initiative in grades 5-8 earlier that year, I responded that the problem did not start with the netbook, it started with the PEN! I shared that the introduction of the pen had resulted in the “going to hell in a hand basket” arguments, and it all stemmed from that!

      • “Advances like lighting, pens, and pencils were ok but phone technology is “cheating.”

        Lighting, pens, and pencils, are representative of practical and pragmatic tools that are not part of the sickening pop culture inspired obsession with trendy gadgets that enslave most users.

        I use my cell phone for what a phone is designed for … to make or take calls only when necessary, not to send needless texts, take pictures, surf the net, or engage in inconsequential chatter about how you’re “feeling” today.

        • Mark, do you really believe that mobile phones should just be for making calls? If so, you’re one of the few in the world that does…

          Maybe it would help if you thought of them as small portable computers, like mini-laptops. Because there’s not much they can’t do these days: text, e-mail, photos, videos, surf the Web, and so on. While you obviously can make the personal decision to ignore the new affordances that these powerful portable computers bring us, the rest of the world is taking advantage of them instead.

          People use(d) quills, pencils, pens, and typewriters to send ‘needless texts.’ People use(d) analog and digital cameras to take pictures. People use(d) desktops, laptops, and netbooks to surf the ‘Net. People use(d) the back fence and landline telephones to ‘engage in inconsequential chatter about how [they’re] ‘feeling’ today.’ And so on. In other words, it’s not the technology; it’s the behavior. And many of us want to engage in those social behaviors – consequential or not – and find that carrying around one device instead of many is more convenient and powerful.

          Sorry, I don’t share your belief that the tool is the issue.

          • You’re right, it is about behavior, the wrong kind of behavior marked by conspicuous consumption, materialism, “I want it all now,” FAST, EASY and FUN, and instant gratification.

            It’s inspired by what? Pop culture, the worst influence in the world, with generous help from an equally insidious and harmful influence, Madison Avenue. Most people have been reduced to lemmings who are fearful of being “unhip” because some idiot in a suit somewhere tells you you can’t do without it.

            That’s why most behavior that I observe as a teacher is appalling and unacceptable to me.

            I don’t recall in my youth people walking around campus or on the streets with their noses buried in note pads and scribbling endless series of notes about what their mood is at the moment or what they had for breakfast.

            I already have a lap top and a camera. Why do I need a device that performs redundant services?

            You’re not getting the pop culture/Madison Avenue connection because i would imagine that most under 40s don’t have the wisdom to understand its negatives.

        • Mark, In high school I used a pen to “engage in insoquential chatter.” Back then it was called passing notes and part of my high school social experience…including when the teacher read my notes out loud. Ha.

          Smartphones are practical and pragmatic tools just like the pen. The pen did not enslave me. Neither has the phone.

          Yes, cell phones were designed to make voice phone calls just like computers were designed to compute large calculations. Computers have evolved into what you used to post on this website. Phones have evolved.

          • From my blog, which explains it all. This is about behavior, the WRONG behavior, and its inevitable result.

            My problem with your generation is that you don’t question any of this. Where’s your skepticism? I guess you’ve never read the best science fiction novels of the past that warn of technology’s over-influence, have you? Ursula LaGuin, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison or Isaac Asimov, do any of these names mean anything to you? Have what they’ve written, foretelling of a bleak future enslaved by tech, made any impression on you?

            And face it, if you are not a business executive or a big wig and you are on your cell phone more than 5x per day, then you are enslaved.

            What ever happened to using resources SPARINGLY?

            “Dumping expensive gadgetry into the laps of students won’t necessarily make them more responsible and better-educated citizens. It won’t necessarily make them more creative, either. I look at what the first computer-raised generation (born in the late 70s/early 80s) has produced via pop culture’s dubious tutelage and I am not impressed by their contributions. With all that technology at their disposal they should have at least achieved and created more than all previous generations combined. Yet, no scientific genius on par with an Einstein or a Curie has yet to emerge from the computer generation. My apologies, that generation invented MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube, how could I forget those stellar achievements? (sarcasm) No one from that generation has made a film as great as On the Waterfront or Wild Strawberries, a narrative as good as you’ll find in a Hemingway or a Fitzgerald novel, or a play as vital as one penned by Arthur Miller or Eugene O’Neill. Despite all the toys at that generation’s disposal to make them smarter and more advanced, most people would acknowledge that the greatest generation in America is still the one that fought through The Great Depression and World War Two, before TV or computers ever existed 65-75 years ago. They were exceptional and able to make it through on less, which is sadly, a mentality lost to most Americans, while their nation (as well as the rest of the world) now sits on the brink of complete financial collapse.”

          • Michelangelo was a great artist with nothing more than a chisel and a slab of marble.

            What will we get when I grab that same chisel and attack the same marble?

            Its not the tool, Mark.

            By the way, I was born: 1969

            We are straying from the point which was allowing cell phones for assessment and assignments.

            More students have cell phones than computers. That is why we are building free mobile versions of our application.

  5. “I can’t wait until the day when low level exams are not given, EVER in our building. What is the purpose???”

    To have the students know information?

  6. As part of our new project based learning pilot, our 8th grade students are researching 32 different topics that factor into the question of cell phone use at school. They will present their findings at our Exhibition Night along with cell phone policy proposals for our school. After considering all the evidence that they uncover and factoring in responses to their original proposals, they will create one or two final balanced proposals and present them to administration and the school board, should they choose to do so, which we anticipate they will.

    • Penny, it’s so great to hear stories like this. I love it when we involve and respect students as part of the decision-making process. You just know that their proposals are going to be great. Nicely done.

  7. Creating questions that lead to deeper learning is the key to the use of cell phones on assessments. Taking notes just seems like such a no-brainer – microphone capability – voice to text – text to notes, etc. etc.
    There is a large cognitive wall between knowing information and understanding how to use information. Great comment on the lower level tests, Shawn.

  8. I am a student in Grade 11 and I agree with what you are saying. Everything we learn in school is supposed to be preparing us for the real world, and cell phones are part of the real world, so why shouldn’t we be allowed to use them? However, at the same time I also feel that even at my age most students wouldn’t be able to handle the freedom of being able to use their cell phones and would abuse this privilege.

    • Hi Jordana,

      It’s wonderful to see a HS student not only reading Mr. McLeod’s blog but also commenting! You make a good point that students may abuse the privilege, which is why my group of 8th graders will be proposing a responsible use educational campaign (students teaching students) as part of their overall proposal to allow cell phone use during the school day. I have seen way too many punishment policies but nary an educational campaign in sight! We hope to change that.

  9. I’m all for technology in the classroom as long as it prepares students for college and careers. Some of the students coming out of our high schools require so much remedial education before they can succeed even at the community college level. I’ve seen too many students use technology to the detriment of their education and grades

    • Kassidy, is it the students’ fault if the technology isn’t being used well in the classroom?

      • I was referring to students abusing technology privileges or using technology (i.e. texting) to the detriment of their education. I’ve just seen far too many students almost addicted to cell phones and computers to the point they fail to learn the basics or think for themselves.

        • “I’ve just seen far too many students almost addicted to cell phones and computers to the point they fail to learn the basics or think for themselves.”

          The same could be said for many of their teachers, which is why this is a grave problem.

          Presumably, adults should be able to control childish impulses to “play play play.” but in this FAST, EASY, and FUN culture, self-control cedes to the need for instant gratification.

  10. Cara (law & hr)
    I understand the initial assertion of the writer, in the “real world” people have technology and information at their fingertips. However, when dealing with students using these items in the classroom we are dealing with a different age group. As a teacher, if I could trust that non of my students would take a picture of the assessment and send it to their friends, that would be fine.

    Also, if I could trust that my students were looking up information for their assignment and not texting or facebooking. I could see the added assistance. However, as a teacher, I can provide that information for the student to help them finish their work and test to the best of their ability without having to deal with the added classroom management of proper cell phone usage.

    • Thanks, Cara, for posting your reply to this idea. When I saw the question, I cringed. It is certainly a shift from past practice, and means new expectations/monitoring.. thanks for your thoughts!

    • Cara, this is an awfully pessimistic view of students, no? Don’t we typically find that students rise to our expectations?

      My supervising principal (when I did my administrative internship) had a mantra: “Classroom management stems from good instruction.” If students are engaged and interested in the learning task, we’re much less likely to have issues. And that falls squarely on us as instructors, not the students. Students have ALWAYS engaged in off-task behaviors when instruction is unengaging; we fool ourselves if we think it’s the fault of the technology and not the instructor.

      You say that you as the teacher can provide them with the information they need. As long as you (or the textbook) are giving them the answers / information they need, when/where do they learn to do it themselves with today’s tools? They’re not just passive recipients of what we want them to ‘learn;’ in the end we want them to be able to do this stuff themselves (and to be interested enough to care about it).

      • “Classroom management stems from good instruction.”

        That is still true, but it’s not the only criteria a teacher should employ. The other part that I utilize requires more work and effort, which is why many teachers don’t consider it.

        I differentiate instruction for each of my 15 students. I know each of their academic and behavioral strengths and weaknesses. I try to draw out of them their intrinsic motivation to learn, along with the use of extrinsic rewards. If they choose not to work, I do not force them. You want classroom management issues? Try to force an emotionally disturbed teen what to do when they don’t want to do it.

        You’ve got to know them well and earn their trust. Otherwise, you won’t get through and the best lesson plan will be for naught.

        You don’t get to that point using fancy gadgets. Trendy gadgets will not substitute for basic human interaction of the 1:1 variety. Digital communications are cold and impersonal, which is why, for the most part, I loathe them. I could never consider a series of characters on a screen from someone purportedly from Australia a “friend.”

        • I am happy to hear you are able to differentiate your instruction for all of your students. That is challenging and admirable, but I feel like your claim is that it is impossible to incorporate technology into a lesson, make it memorable and long-lasting, and still differentiate it. If this is an accurate representation of your position, I totally disagree with you. Part of PollEverywhere is the ability to see individual student responses to questions, a wonderful formative assessment tool when determining what re-teaching is required. In my opinion, this is not cold and impersonal at all.

          • “but I feel like your claim is that it is impossible to incorporate technology into a lesson,”

            Please provide the exact quote where I said anything was “impossible.”

            I consider a “fancy gadget” anything beyond a basic desktop or laptop computer, a printer, and perhaps, an LCD projector. Basically, it’s also anything that Steve Jobs designs and sells and tells me that I have to have to be an effective teacher in the “21st century.”

            I am an effective teacher without using any of his products. I also don’t need to look at the date on the calendar to cue me as to how to teach, either

  11. I think the main issue here are the assignments and assessments that are being given. Are assignments and assessments that require simple recall of information really worthwhile? Assignments and assessments that will really show whether or not students have mastered skills and concepts taught are those that will give them the opportunity to show that they can apply what they learned. This implies that schools need to rethink and re-evaluate how they allow students to show mastery of what is being taught. If assignments and assessments continue to require students to simply recall (low on Bloom’s Taxonomy, then let them use cell phones to get those answers.

    • Hi Molly,
      You’ve really distilled the issue. I, too, believe in application in practice, not always rote learning (like in the school law quizzes). 🙂

  12. Our students are exploring all the ways that cell phones can be used in the classroom besides as a student response system. Cell phones can be used as a research tool, a pocket reference, a calculation and data tool, a multimedia tool, geocaching, numerous edu apps and for QR Codes applied in creative ways for learning. All of these require higher order thinking skills and are especially powerful in the project or experiential based learning classroom/system.

  13. I consider preparing my students for life after high school a far greater requirement of my position as a math teacher than making sure they know the difference between the commutative and associative properties of addition. And while I recognize many people use cell phones only for making and receiving calls, students do not. The fact of the matter is technology (especially this type) is going to be a significant part of the lives of our students. As educators, we have two options: Embrace it and learn how to use it to our advantage, or fight it and lose.

    • Greg: You illustrate perfectly the difference between traditional parenting and the post-modern Dr. B. Spock approach to parenting. The traditional method (which I prefer) tells kids what’s best because adults know better by virtue of their age and experience. The post-mod approach places kids on a more equal moral plane as adults which allows them enjoy more control over their present lives, even though they have no experience to guide their reasoning behind making important decisions, such as whether or not it is necessary to use a cell phone in the classroom.

      I am never in favor of the reasoning that allows kids to do something because “they already do it.” That’s the same reasoning that informs the sick philosophy of giving kids condoms to have sex because “they’re already doing it.”

      The post-mod parenting model is based on avoiding real responsibility and making those tough decisions that could compromise their image in the eyes of kids. The post-mod parenting model considers being their kids’ friend most important. Besides overindulging kids with material goods, being the kids’ “friend” undermines the adults’ responsibility to be an authoritative figure.

      You’re right, we need to teach older kids the reality of life after graduation. However, we may differ in what scenario we are prepping them for. The scenario I’m positing is not rosy and bright.

      I was raised by this philosophy, which is very Old World and influenced by centuries of pain and despair.

      “Hope for the best, expect the worst.”

      When I read about what’s happening in the world at present, I cannot help but think that we must prep our kids for the worst.

  14. “More students have cell phones than computers. That is why we are building free mobile versions of our application.”

    Roderick: I should have checked your bio before writing. You aren’t a classroom teacher, so you are approaching this from a POV that’s 180 degrees different than mine. I have become anti-corporatist in the last few years because those in business have ruined our nation with greed. It’s only going to get worse and there are those who are predicting a future where we’re going to be using all this wonderful tech as if nothing bad will happen. How about just adopting a bunker mentality, saving our money, and prepare for the worst?

    I am a realist. I accept the world for what it is, not for what I hope it could be like.

    • Mark: You sound defeated and scared.

      We are not talking about developing children that are dependent on the access of information. We are talking about allowing students to use phones for assessment and assignments to stretch their knowledge.

      Evil corporations have nothing to do with this.

      • “You sound defeated and scared.”

        if that were true, I’d leave teaching tomorrow. I won’t, because I was taught to fight corruptive influences in regard to children. I am a parent, a protector, and a guardian, as well as a teacher, because the kids I teach need responsible adults in those roles. I do not willingly appease or capitulate to unproven products or services simply because some marketeer who isn’t a trained and certified educator says I should.

        “We are not talking about developing children that are dependent on the access of information. We are talking about allowing students to use phones for assessment and assignments to stretch their knowledge.”

        Sorry to burst your bubble, but you can’t achieve the latter without feeding the former. Any teacher knows that.

        Roderick, the moment you enter the market with a product or service that’s designed to possibly impact education, you become apart of the corporate culture. The corporate culture operates under the premise that it knows better than the consumer (in this case, teachers) and pushes very hard to persuade naive and gullible educators to buy into their marketing spiel.

        I have learned to view marketeers, salesmen, whatever you want to call them, askance for the very reasons I’ve already mentioned. They sell a false vision about a “future” that may not even exist as we know it. The signs are there, but there are those who will continue to fiddle while Rome burns.

        • “I do not willingly appease or capitulate to unproven products or services simply because some marketeer who isn’t a trained and certified educator says I should.” Like computers and calculators? To the best of my knowledge, they were invented by people who were not trained or certified educators (William Serward Burroughs and Konrad Zuse respectively). While they are proven now, they certainly have not always been, and without the willingness on someone’s part to try and make these relevant parts of education, they would not be so. I find your lack of openness to new strategies or techniques very “Old World” indeed.

          • Let’s recall some historical facts about computers, shall we?

            Computers and calculators were not invented for classroom use or for the greater good of education. They were invented to calculate missile firing coordinates for the defense industry in the 1940s. When the phony Cold War initiative to push kids into American universities began a decade later, the hucksters from Palo Alto and their cronies in government thought of ways to adapt their war technology into non-threatening consumer friendly tools to market and sell via Madison Avenue (i.e. “The Mad Men”) along with color TVs, freeze dried food, and wash-n-wear clothing in the 60s. It’s just more in a decades long decline of the American consumer being repeatedly told what to buy and how much to pay. Sadly, too many teachers are caught up in the same mentality because they’ve been raised to be materialist lemmings. They only know how to be useful idiots for corporate America. As proof, recall the clamor for the iFad earlier this year, which in reality, is an overpriced piece of junk Steve Jobs tells you you can’t do without.

  15. Mark, this will be my last post because it is very clear that you no longer have an issue with my comments and now have an issue with me because you assume that I am not a “certified teacher.” I will not continue to post on this blog about issues that nobody really cares about. You are welcome to email me and continue this discussion.

    I take pride in the fact that my application is FREE for all students and teachers.

    I also take pride in the fact that it is built using certified teachers as consultants and all new features are requested by teachers and students.

    I tell everyone that it is built by educators to solve needs that they face.

    email me:
    Twitter: @rodericksilva

    or simply reply on any of our blog posts on our website if you choose to keep this conversation public with your agenda.

    Great talking with you.

    • Roderick: For the record, I have no protest against you personally. How could I? I don’t even know you.

      What I do protest against is what you represent, that technology will “save” education. The reason why a lot of people, even teachers, believe that, is because they know of little else in their lives but to be plugged into some device or planted in front of a screen. That, to them, represents “reality.”

      That’s sad, to think that one’s whole professional life is to be based on using trendy gadgets pushed by the youth market via Madison Avenue and its evil twin, pop culture.

      I operate with the understanding that what pop culture and the youth market represent is crap, so of course, I will offer a biased view.

      I’ve already mentioned what will save education, but unfortunately for the profiteers looking at education as a potential market, the solution can’t be packaged and sold.

  16. Cecil (law and hr) Reply October 10, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Trying to answer the question regarding whether cell phones should be used for all assessments and assignments is a difficult task. Most people would agree with the idea students should not be allowed to take a picture of an assessment during a morning class and give the picture to their friends taking the same test later in the day. Many would say this is cheating. However, students have web enabled phones that allow them access to vast amounts of information. Shouldn’t they be allowed to look up information on at least a limited basis? I have a difficult time when the word ‘all’ is used in a question.

    As a second grade teacher this has not become an issue but it may in the near future. I’m certain it has become an issue in many middle schools and high schools. Cell phone use continues to grow even in my second grade class.

    I heard a story about Albert Einstein which may be true or just a legend. Apparently Einstein was asked by the interviewer for his phone number so additional questions could be asked the following day. Einstein seemed puzzled and then walked across the room to his phone book, looked up the number and gave it to the reporter. The man was shocked Einstein had to look up his own phone number and told Einstein his concern. Einstein replied, “Knowledge is not knowing all the answers but knowing where to find the answer.” Aren’t educators supposed to help students ‘find’ their answers?

    Shouldn’t we encourage them regarding technology and how best to use it?

  17. “I find your lack of openness to new strategies or techniques very “Old World” indeed.”

    By the way, Greg, you have to prove to me that something will work before I’ll try it, especially when the push to try it arrives from a generation corrupted by pop culture and Madison Avenue.

    Essentially, I don’t trust that generation’s judgment at all in matters of education or even in matters of how best to raise children.

  18. As educators, I feel we have the responsibility to model and instruct our students in the responsible and appropriate use of the resources available to them. Over time, those resources have changed and they will continue to change, but our goal remains the same: to prepare our students to be responsible, productive citizens. I believe we would be remiss in our duties if we did not utilize these resources. The easy access to information allows students to locate necessary information, so let’s teach them how to take it to the next level. Getting students to analyze, apply and critically respond to the information will better prepare them for the future, and, as Molly commented earlier, is a far better way for students to demonstrate mastery.

    • I don’t recall from any of my teacher training that I was required to become a shill for corporate America’s products and services, primarily those pushed by pop culture targeting the 40 and under generation. I was not trained to become an advocate for Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Silicon Valley, or those kiddies who invented twitter, facebook, myspace, either.

  19. To answer the question, Yes, students should be allowed to use cell phones for assignments and assessments. Should that be the only tool used to do so? No. To get a true understanding of a student’s knowledge, multiple measures must be used. As educators, we need to keep in mind the objective of the assignment or assessment. What are we looking for? What are we judging? What do we want the students to accomplish? Have we chosen the appropriate tool to make that judgment about a student’s knowledge? Is the use of a cell phone appropriate for what we want our students to learn or to learn about our students? Technology is not going anywhere, and part of our responsibility as educators is to teach students how to appropriately use this resource. We teach them how to hold/use a pencil appropriately. We teach them how to type a paragraph, appropriately. All in the name of learning.
    Educators and students will make judgments based on their own values, beliefs and experiences. This is what makes us human. Just because a student might cheat using a particular tool, does not make that tool unusable. We have to know our students and determine a goal. Whatever that may be?

  20. Bill M (Law and HR) Reply October 11, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    My attitude regarding smart phones and other technologies for classroom use is that tech is a tool. It’s not a replacement for good teaching, but it definitely enhances the experience.

    I use in my classroom. I first learned about it at a “Using Technology in the Classroom” seminar and thought it was a wonderful tool. The first time I used it in my class, the students thought it was so cool to be able to see their response appear in my powerpoint instantaneously. Polleverywhere lets me check for understanding in a different way. Students are tech savvy and I encourage them to remain that way. Also, I think it’s important that they see me as tech savvy, too. It’s just one more method I have for remaining relevant to them.

    I don’t see it as any different than using a smartboard, lap top computers, an iPad for interactive reading, a kindle to reduce the amount of wasted paper that textbooks cause. If I could (meaning if I had the money) I’d get every kid the coolest technology and let them use it everyday. I like gadgets. I am a geek. So, tech is reflected in my teaching practices.

    Learning how to discern relevant information from a variety of sources– well, I view that as a lesson teachers need to teach the kids. It’s not like libraries have card catalogs any longer. And people certainly don’t use microfiche or news reel readers to investigate social issues. Technological advances are important.

    I remember the first time I went into a library and used a computer-based card catalog. It simplified my ability to do research; it saved me time. It was almost as joyful as the first time I ever used a computer to calculate grades. Thank god, I don’t keep hand-written records any longer. And if my computer crashes, well, I am at ease in the knowledge that my grades are safely backed up on two-different off-site web servers.

    One of my clear-credential courses was an Introduction to Classroom Technology. I might be wrong, but I am sure that the word “introduction” implies that further training or learning will be necessary. Just like my college English class “Introduction to American literature” didn’t expose me to all aspects of the American literature canon, well, that Introduction to Classroom Technology class was just a teaser for the possibilities.

    Oh, and if that makes me a shill for corporate America, an evil advocate for Bill gates and Steve Jobs, so be it. This lemming is walking off the cliff with his iPhone in one hand and his Promethean board in the other. I’ll take satisfaction in knowing technology that was designed for bombs and wars is now educating kids in concepts of peace, love and understanding.

    • “I’ll take satisfaction in knowing technology that was designed for bombs and wars is now educating kids in concepts of peace, love and understanding.”

      Tell me, how does the technology that created these video games teach kids the tenets of “peace love and understanding”?

      Resident Evil 4
      Grand Theft Auto
      God of War

      shall I continue?

      It’s too easy to hide in your classroom and say that this stuff isn’t found there. I have to consider the whole of society, because I am a parent first, a teacher second.

      The problem is, too many so-called “adults” are to afraid to BE adults by saying “no” to kids who think they should own everything that comes along in the way of gadgets.

      Why is it such a problem for them? The answer is simple. Too many so-called “adults” are still stuck in an infantile rut of desiring toys.

      • For all you folks enslaved to your gadgets, people like me will have the last laugh when the radiation from the predicted massive solar flares fry all the satellites and power grids, rendering your beloved toys useless, forcing you into true and needed behavioral changes that should have taken place YEARS ago.

        We then see who will survive and who won’t.

  21. The technology in the classroom is changing so quickly as each year passes by. I have had new technology every year in my room for the last three years. The technology in my room (student laptops, document camera, etc) has helped my students gain access to information they otherwise would not be able to. While I hesitate to think that using cell phones in the classroom would be beneficial, I do like the point that Greg made.

    “Embrace it and learn how to use it to our advantage, or fight it and lose.”

    I know a lot of teachers that are losing the battle of cell phone use in class. There are days when I am one of them. I would love to find a program for students to use on their cell phones that would apply to my class. When needed, students may use the calculator application on their phones as opposed to passing out calculators. It’s a minor use in my classroom, but I know other teachers are using this technology to their advantage.

    My school has a 9th grade Life Skills class and the teachers show the students how to use the application for figuring out how much money to tip at a restaurant. An application on many cell phones, but I doubt many students know where to find it or even how to use it. This class is able to utilize cell phone technology and make it beneficial for the class.

    I think that if the cell phone is applicable to the classroom, then why not use it. Might as well teach the students how to use the technology to the fullest instead of just texting all the time.

  22. As with all forms of technology, cell phones have a place. It would be narrow minded of us to say cell phones definitely have no place in education. Just like a basic calculator, there is a developmentally appropriate point in which students should be allowed to look up information. That being said, students should have a basic understanding of content and the world around them. This means knowing and remembering some basic information, without the assistance of technology. We do not want to send students out into the world who will not be able to have a conversation or answer a question if their cell phone dies.

  23. Kenneth (law & hr) Reply October 12, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    At first when I read this question, the teacher inside of me screamed “no” for a short while and I thought a lot of the same way that Cara does. I had visions of immature or lazy students texting the assessment to their peers or of students having AIM conversations while they are supposedly doing an assessment or assignment. this however was just my initial gut reaction.

    My school has recently moved over to a standards based grading system that shifts the focus from information retention and regurgitation to true content knowledge (at least in theory). With this system in place I can see a real spot in our curriculum for programs like PollEverywhere or the basic use of cell phones to get minute pieces of information ready avalible in the “real world.” If we switch our focus to total content understanding then this system would work very well I think.

    However, I am still stuck with this thought: are students really learning math if they are allowed to use a calculator…and if not are student really learing if they can always phone a friend?

    • Kenneth, I think we need to make sure that they are not relying on it or leaning on it. The focus should be on leveraging the information. Taking them further than they were before. Exploring their interests.

      Example: Planing family vacations. My two children pick their own destinations and present their proposals to the family.

      I don’t ask my kids to memorize the locations and dates but they know where to find the information. They look up the historical sites, distances on the map, expenses, etc.

      Those are real life skills.

      Example: if you want to put kids to sleep, step them through every feature in Power Point.

      Let them pick their topic first. Let them reflect on how they plan to present it to the class. They will seek out transitions, animations, importing images, etc; all on their own. Then you guide them.

  24. At this particular point in my career it doesn’t matter wether I believe that cell phones should be allowed or not. I work in a district with a stated policy that cell phones are not to be seen or heard during class. If that rule is broken, the cell phones are to be confiscated. And, no, I don’t think they would make an exception for appropriate educational use, not with the policies in place about other technologies.

    But… if I had been asked to respond to this question last year as an elementary teacher, my response would have been no, do not allowe students to use cell phones. One of the main reasons being I was working in a lower socio-economic area and not every child had a cell phone. I would have been reluctant in class to allow students to use technologies that weren’t available to everyone. Same reason I wouldn’t require typed assignments or interent research for homework. Many of my students did not have computers.

    Now as a high school teacher, like Kenneth, I took a moment to consider my response. I think it’s an idea we should be open to, but one that should be well thought out, and properly designed before implementing, both at the administrative and teacher level. Policies will need to be developed, and teacher’s will have to use common sense. If the use of cell phones is not to become just the latest educational “toy” of “fad,” then a well-thought out plan needs to be in place, including rules and regulations. We can trust students all we want, but someone will try and push the envelope and get away with something they shouldn’t.

    I would be interested in knowing what people think about the problem of students who don’t have cell phones. We might believe it’s universal, but it’s not. Even if it’s only a few students, how do you incorporate them into the assignment if they don’t have the technology?

  25. As a teacher I think it is my responsibility to expose students to as much technology as possible. Like it or not, technology is part of everyday life.
    While I understand that we can not trust students completely to use technology appropriately, we have to find a time to use it in the classroom. With proper limitations, guidelines, and supervision the use of technology can be beneficial to all.

  26. EFRAIN PANIAGUA (law & hr)
    First let my students answer this question.
    This is my ELD class, primarily consisting of Beginners to Early Intermediate English Learners. We had a long discussion about the benefits and the disadvantages of using the cell phone in class. Many of the students thought that a cell phone would definitely inhibit the learning process. I provided my students various examples where a cell phone would be a valuable tool in the classroom. Yet, they still felt that the cell phone would prove to be more a distraction that a tool to benefit learning.
    Personally, I believe that the cell phone is not the end all to the interactive or cutting edge technology tool that students need to have. I do feel that our students need to master and practice the 21st century skills that will allow them to be competitive in the job market. However, looking at my students, I believe that my students should master the math and language skills needed to successfully participate in our society. In this age of Google and search engines, are students are lacking the critical thinking skills that we have had to put by the wayside for fear of not meeting the standards. This generation of students is all about the immediate and easy. I believe we need to show this generation that all the technology and gadgets cannot replace the need for problem solving and critical thinking skills.

    • Efrain,

      I loved your videos of the kids presenting their opinions. That’s a truly good use of technology. You are my tech hero.

  27. Matthew (law & hr) Reply October 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    My school makes it very clear where they stand with regards to the use of cell phones in the classroom. If we see them used, we are to take them from the student and hand them over to the office where they are to be picked up by either the student or their parent depending on whether it is the first offense or greater.

    Having said that, I do not adhere to that policy, because I see the use of cell phones in the classroom as long as their use is monitored closely. I do not broadcast that fact in my school, but there are certainly limits that should be in place with cell phone use. I am perfectly fine with their use in calculations or simple research during assignments or projects. They certainly save me time by not having to pass out class sets of calculators for simple mathematics. They also allow students to quickly research information without having to wheel in the heavy laptop carts for everything that needs simple research. It saves time and school network bandwidth. It also allows students to get a feel for the proper use of technology in the classroom… at least in my classroom.

    What I am not fine with, however, is their use in any quiz or exam. My class is presented detailed notes during each thematic unit in addition to them having study guides that forewarn about everything that will be asked of them on unit exams. Unit quizzes are based on vocabulary only, so the answers are readily available in the textbook.

    Needless to say, there are no surprises in my class. The students know exactly what topics they will see on my exams, so when they are given an exam, they are expected to demonstrate how well they know the content without having to use a cell phone for research.

    I specifically design projects to see how creative and resourceful my students are. I create my exams to judge how much knowledge is retained in their head. The need for knowledge retention will always be a necessity, so while the use of technology such as cell phones has a definite place in the classroom, it should not be used as a substitute for studying and the retention of knowledge.

  28. Matthew (law & hr) Reply October 13, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    By the way, I do not normally wear that much lipstick as depicted by my avatar 🙂

  29. Out of curiosity, I asked a couple of my classes if they felt that utilizing their cell phones would enable them to enhance their learning in any way. The responses were very eye-opening. As a teacher at a fairly affluent school, I was almost amused to find that only 2 or 3 kids in every classroom had a cell phone service which would allow them to utilize the internet without incurring minute-by-minute fees. I am not sure how much information they have at their finger tips without internet access.
    Several students actually responded that it would be a bad idea, because it is way too easy to cheat and get distracted from the task at hand. Some students even went as far as to say that it really took a great deal of will-power and restraint to resist the temptation to check their inbox several times throughout class each day, and a few students lamented that they have played full video games during classes and it has cost them better grades.
    While technology is helpful for the dissemination of information and faster output of assignments, the entertainment opportunities and social networking aspects of these tools can serve to eliminate many gains through the distractions (aka escapism) these programs breed.

  30. My first inclination as I read the question was to not allow the use of phones in a classroom environment, but as I continued to listen to the podcast, it reminded me of positive ways this tool can enhance the academic environment. It is a tool,and if used properly can provide needed information to add to a lesson and stimulate conversation. A principal in my district has taken it upon herself to teach all 2nd to 6th graders the advantages of using technology in their classrooms. She used approved funds to purchase a set of itouch devices for the students to use in each class. The students are developing a respect for the technology, and use it as part of their curriculum. I asked the principal what her thought process was, and was she not concerned that the devices would detract from the academic environment. Her goal was not to only teach her students the advantages of using technology, but also the need to respect it and use it properly. She believes by making technology part of the the student’s everyday life, it will instill a sense of respect and positiveness of what can be accomplished. With the proper education, in the near future this will be a situation which no longer will exist and will become part of our daily lives.

  31. As an online teacher, the incorporation of technology has changed the way I see instruction in my classroom. The integration of the technological tools available can create a rich learning environment that engages students in learning in an environment that they are already familiar with. As mentioned in this podcast several times, the important thing to note when dealing with such an environment, is the importance of establishing guidelines and policies to deal with technological issues that may arise such as cyber bullying BEFORE instances occur. A proactive approach to such scenarios is essential in dealing with such situations.
    I also agree that in would be losing battle to attempt to come up with a new policy every time a new gadget is created. However, the incorporation of the established behavioral expectations that are already in place can be beneficial in dealing with such technological issues.

  32. Michelle (law& HR) Reply October 15, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Instead of being set in our teaching practices, we as educational leaders must advance with the times. We must not fear technology, rather engage in it. Our goal should be to make learning relevant to our students lives. Since most students use their cell phones for everything, teaching them to learn through cell phones would advance our learners. We should become strategic in how to best implement teaching practices. We can still hold our students to high standards and use technology to create higher order of thinking.

  33. I agreed with the pod cast that there is very little training given to teachers in regards to data, emails, technology, and security law. Many of the articles NEA publishes on technology stem from technology lawsuits with no policy in place (ad-hoc decision making) or policy in place but teachers and administrators are unaware of the proper procedures. I know coming from the middle schools the biggest technology issue we have is cell phones. First, is texting friends, test answers, or cyber bullying. Secondly, is picture taking in classrooms.

  34. I like the idea of integrating cell phones and other things that excite our students into the curriculum. However, we still need to teach proper cell phone etiquette. Cell phones ringing during exams can be very distracting. Also, cell phones could be used by some students as a replacement for studying or even thinking.

  35. I totally agree with Mark, that teaching today needs to “turn…into a performance each day.” With or without digital tools – depending on what you are doing.

    If you’re looking for a good resource about using cell phones in the classroom, look for: Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education by Liz Kolb. This is a very helpful resource. It covers:

    Chapter 1: Cell Phones as Learning Tools
    Chapter 2: Concerns with Cell Phones in the Classroom
    Chapter 3: Cell Phone Podcasting, Voice Mail, Conferencing, and Mobile Notes
    Chapter 4: Cell Phones as Cameras and Camcorders
    Chapter 5: Developing Classroom Projects for Cell Phones
    Chapter 6: Cell Phones as Research and Organizational Tools
    Chapter 7: Cell Phones as Management Tools
    Chapter 8: Cell Phones in Preschool and Lower Elementary Learning
    Chapter 9: The Future of Cell Phones in Schools
    Chapter 10: More Web 2.0 Resources for Cell Phones
    National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS*S)

    So you see, there are some wonderful resources to assist us in our teaching. However, what needs to happen is a change in our “Mindset.” Most of us tell the students when they walk into the classroom, turn your cell phones off! They are a distraction! They can be a distraction, but they are also a tool that we need to teach students to use appropriately!

  36. Not all kids have cell phones, so what happens to them? Also, cell phones are bad for all peoples’ health, but particularly children; should you really be encouraging this? Where do you draw the line? Whats the difference between “low-level factual recall knowledge” and actual knowledge? Furthermore, why can’t kids just memorize things? Is it really that hard? Could there be any benefit to actually knowing stuff?

    I’m all for technology, but I think your argument for cell phones on tests is rather weak.

  37. Matthew:

    Practical, pragmatic, common sense thinking has gone out the window these days among many educators.

    It’s all about what’s hip and trendy. Mindsets have been corrupted by the artifice of pop culture. Instead of disdaining pop culture, they embrace it. Too many older teacher are fearful of aging, so they latch on to youthful trends without thinking or forethought.

    This is why I hold so many of my contemporaries in contempt.

    Their values are completely screwed up.

    • I agree with you—common sense is in short supply, and to be honest, why we’re having a conversation about whether kids should allowed to use cell phones in class is rather baffling. The idea of using cell phones in lieu of actually knowing and learning things—a distinction lost on many—is absurd!

      Having instant access to information should be seen as a convenience, not as a revolution—because it isn’t. Using the “cell phone in classroom logic” why would anyone want to eat healthy when doctors can just give them a pill to cure diabetes? Why should children learn to walk when they can just be pushed around on a wheel chair? Why would anyone try and address underlying causes of mental disease when they can just pop a pill and fix it? And on and on.

      I suppose if teachers and parents think it’s a good idea for kids to use cell phones in class who’s to stop them. In a way it makes sense. In my country, Canada, up to 50 percent of the population is functionally illiterate. Presenting them short, shallow tidbits of information on a two inch screen might in fact be necessary to retain their attention long enough to transmit information. But it’s a rather sad state of affairs isn’t it?

      My daughter who is homeschooled –mostly because I think most schools fail to teach and are filled with dysfunctional students and teachers–won’t be using a cell phone–she doesn’t have one nor will she until she’s old enough to pay for one herself. She’ll be learning facts. Not useless facts, but how to synthesize facts to generate knowledge.

      I agree that many people embrace pop culture, and I think many do so at the expense of common sense, real learning and development of genuine intelligence.

  38. I’ll have to agree with Mark on most points. Most recent research shows most technology in the classroom does not improve performance. One benefit: Technology helps appeal to different learning styles and multiple intelligences with presentations using direct instruction. Another benefit: software for math and foreign language is an excellent investment if your district can afford it. But cell phones? No way. I read an article recently that had someone wondering why we still rely on knowledge (can you believe that?) when his daughter can take out a cell phone anytime she wants and find an answer. Will she resort to the cellphone in a job interview? Or in the court of law when asked a question by the judge? I think not. It’s kind of like the GPS; we eventually won’t know how to read maps or find our way without these devices because we rely on them so greatly. Put away the electronics, just for a little while. Sit, listen, think, speak. What happened to those learning traits? I’m glad the school I teach in backs me with a zero-tolerance cell phone policy.

  39. “Will she resort to the cellphone in a job interview? Or in the court of law when asked a question by the judge? I think not.”

    Exactly. it’s the same sad mentality that informs the methods of some college instructors that have students tweet them and fellow students during class! The reason? Some students are “too shy” to stand up before their peers and talk! What are these kids going to do when they get a job in the real world? Tweet their interview? Tweet their presentation?

    “I read an article recently that had someone wondering why we still rely on knowledge”

    My daughter’s middle school headmaster preaches the same nonsense, with the specious reasoning that knowledge changes “too fast.”

    It’s partially about people jumping on bandwagons, not wishing to feel excluded, being part of the collective … all fueled by an insatiable need to socialize in unprecedented proportions. Personally, I am fine with having only 3 or 4 real friends. I don’t need to collect “friends” from around the world like some kids collect sports trading cards.

    “Put away the electronics, just for a little while. Sit, listen, think, speak.”

    Sadly, too many brainwashed lemmings believe that the only way to effectively accomplish this is with a tiny screen, a key pad, plus FAST, EASY, and FUN.

  40. Hmmmm…all this conversation done via technology. Maybe even a cell phone? Did I learn anything…Yes I did. Interesting. Would I want students to learn this way? I think that takes me back to the original post question. Could I have learned as much without the conversation on this blog… maybe but probably not from the above people. Use this conversation in a classroom and then expand it world wide via cell phone technology.

    • “Use this conversation in a classroom and then expand it world wide via cell phone technology.”

      Why would I want to stare into a tiny screen when I can do the same thing with a 15″ or greater screen attached to a laptop or desktop computer?

      “Use this conversation in a classroom and then expand it world wide via cell phone technology.”

      It’s a fallacy that labeling something “global” automatically makes it more legitimate or superior.

    • Tina, you’re mistaken. I don’t think those of us against cell phones in class rooms are against technology. I’m all for it–even cell phones. Although I do admit I got rid of mine years ago and been measurably happier since.

      The point I’m trying to make, however, is that while it’s great to use technology to get information, kids need to learn, and be able to learn. Knowledge of a topic is more than just being about to read information off a screen. The must be able to remember it. I’m sorry to say such a controversial thing. But it’s true. They must be able to retain knowledge for it to be knowledge, otherwise all they have is information and that’s destined to be forgotten as soon as their cell phone runs out of batteries.

      • Why must they remember it? We live in a world with constant connectedness to every fact that has ever been published. Why would I want my kids to remember what year Napoleon lost at Waterloo when it’s vastly more important that they understand the reasons behind the war in the first place. Skipping “recall and regurgitate” type lessons lets us get much deeper into the material than when the most advanced memory retention device was World Book.

        • Take the rules of grammar. I can look them up any time I like. Same goes for spelling, but should I have to? Is that a logical way to function? If your child had to keep his cell phone on hand to figure out how to write a complete sentence would you think this is okay?

          I’m pretty good at grammar, but I’ve had to internalize the rules. Just reading them out loud off a screen isn’t useful when trying to understand how to use them. Learning things deeply required both the ability to remember specific facts and process them. Learning grammar or other things like how to do long division for example, took a lot of effort, but I did it! Shouldn’t we ask today’s children, many of who can barely read and write when they leave university not to mention elementary school, to do the same?

          How about the rules for driving? Should people be googling instructions for how to use their car when they drive? Many things can simply be read off a screen, but does that mean a person knows how to incorporate that knowledge into their life in a meaningful way?

          Of course some bare facts are a waste of time, yet others are not. But one way or another kids have to learn to retain things, and to be honest once you get the hang of it, and once you’re mature enough to learn, then it’s really not all that difficult. If they don’t practice this skill will they have it at their disposal when they need it?

          That being said, there might be a place for cell phones in the class room; however, there must be a place for learning how to process knowledge, and part of that process requires, in my opinion, the ability to remember information.

  41. Interesting article about the safety of cell phones:

  42. Wow, lots of ad hominem vitriol going on here. That’s regrettable.

    I am the Technology Integrator for my school (a small independent school in Dayton, Ohio). For the record, I’m also the oldest teacher in my building at 61.

    Most of our upper & middle school kids do have smart phones & I am intrigued by the idea of using them in instruction. I *love* Penny’s idea of a research project on the pluses & minuses. That’s truly creative teaching!

    One concern I have is that there are students whose families don’t have/can’t afford smart phones. How would that disparity be accommodated if cell phone use becomes part of our expectations? For that matter, features & apps keep changing– do we promulgate a minimum requirement? can we?

    I also hope we don’t embrace an either/or model: either you just teach the facts & the little sponges absorb/regurgitate them, OR you give them meaningful 21st century learning. TED video or no, I do believe in giving kids basic skills & knowledge. I see way too many grad students (often in education) who do not have a solid grasp on English grammar. The students will use they’re computer skills? The single best criteria? Ouch. And my husband teaches Latin (I know, not a highly valued discipline, but darned useful for those in history or theology). It is his belief & mine that you can’t learn Latin verbs without rote practice.

    I’m open to anyone who can show otherwise without attacking me, or the teaching of Latin. (For that matter, I work with first graders learning to add & subtract. There are great activities on the web that give kids a whole bunch of ways to visualize, reconsider, & master this skill. But they actually DO need to learn the basic facts & times tables to be able to function in algebra & beyond. It’s the alphabet of math. No alphabet = no reading/writing/adding….)

  43. I had dinner at my in-law’s the other night, and one of my relatives (a 20-something male) texted the entire time he was there, even during dinner. I think this was incredibly rude, but I don’t think the kid knows how to have an in-person conversation. He does fine with all his technology and video games, texting, etc., but has not learned how to function in the real world with real people. How sad.

  44. Lin glad someone commented on the fact that smart phones are not available for all. Until all students hae access to the same tools things can’t change. The reality is that some students will always have an learning advantage because they are able to afford the best and newest technology. No different then those who can go to college and those who can’t. What can we do as educators to make this a little more even. 1 to 1 initiatives are helping but what do you do with a student who has the computer but not the internet at home? Each problem can be a set back but is also a challenge to overcome.
    Matt.. the comment about cell phones was generic. Cell phones to me are never just phones just personal computers and that is why I referred to technology. So yes to no cell phone to me does equate to no technology or at least no to this type of personal technology. Though I do agree with the concept that too much fact finding is done without retention and retention is important to large areas of learning.

  45. While I can see that there could be instances where students using their cell phones in class would be beneficial, I also think there are a lot of negatives. First of all, not every child has a cell phone. Even more specifically not every child has a smart phone, nor do I really think they should. The use of cell phones in school may make parents feel pressured to get their child a smart phone that they can’t afford.

    There is also a lot of research about the safety of cell phone use particularly for young children ( I think if schools had smart phones that students could use occasionally when in school, like many schools do with laptops, this would be a better means for implementing them in the classroom.

  46. I’m pretty good at grammar, but I’ve had to internalize the rules. Just reading them out loud off a screen isn’t useful when trying to understand how to use them. Learning things deeply required both the ability to remember specific facts and process them. Learning grammar or other things like how to do long division for example, took a lot of effort, but I did it! Shouldn’t we ask today’s children, many of who can barely read and write when they leave university not to mention elementary school, to do the same?

  47. Say I for phones to school!

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