The real reason we ban cell phones

Marc Prensky said:

Let’s admit that the real reason we ban cell phones is that, given the opportunity to use them, students would “vote with their attention,” just as adults “vote with their feet” by leaving the room when a presentation is not compelling. Why shouldn’t our students have the same option with their education when educators fail to deliver compelling content?

via Listen to the Natives

Not sure I buy into the idea that educators should be ‘delivering content,’ no matter how compelling! But I like the quote. Anyone else besides me want to admit that if you had mobile phones and social media when you were a kid, you would have tried to escape your boring classrooms too?

We can mandate their attendance but it’s nearly impossible to mandate their attention.

9 Responses to “The real reason we ban cell phones”

  1. Rescind the truancy laws, remove the state mandates and testing, eliminate the constant barrage of Public Helpful Suggestions, and certainly, I’d let the bored and disaffected walk out of school and get a job at 14.

    But, rightfully so, no one would allow that.

    Why is it that we think that students will make good decisions with their education when we are certain everywhere else that they can’t?

  2. Most teachers have yet to learn how to incorporate cell phones or any web device into instruction, and that’s not the students’ fault.

  3. Teachers that ban phones, don’t:
    1. Understand the value and educational potential of technology
    2. Understand their students and what motivates them

    Need to get a different job.

  4. The other reason that teachers don’t allow cell phones in the class is kids fact checking them. When I taught my first class where laptops were allowed, it completely threw me off when students started to say, “I think you meant to say 1941, not 1942.” It was embarrassing to realize how many of the (to my mind) trivial facts I was careless about. But after making sure my next class was fact perfect, I realized that students were a bit less engaged. So I got over being embarrassed and started encouraging them to find sites that disagreed with me. So they were on their computers and they were (sort of) trying to trip me up, but I could not have found a better way to get them engaged with the material AND prepared to think critically about what I was telling them about. Nobody was on Facebook or chat, unless it was to solicit opinions on today’s topic. That wore off over the years, of course, as students became more familiar with having tech in class and smart phones became a thing, but I still agree with Joel. If you feel threatened by a cell phone, you’re probably doing something wrong.

  5. Thank you, Scott.
    How many billions of dollars are poured into R & D by smartphone manufactures with the aim being utility and engagement to the Nth degree. It’s not even close to a fair fight. What is the one piece of technology that nearly every learner will have at their fingertips? If we truly want to prepare learners for their future, it would be silly to ignore the importance of the smartphone. My longer winded thinking on this topic here;
    Talk soon,

  6. I want to push back just a little here. I don’t think it’s reasonable to accuse teachers who ban smartphones of being Luddite control freaks.

    Many, many popular apps are so popular because they employ sophisticated techniques to keep our attention. It’s a real thing. I’ll spare you a list of links and invite you to Google it. The “voting” for attention is rigged, and not with the general public’s best interest at heart.

    Personally, I deleted almost everything off of my phone and found that my ability to focus on what was important drastically improved. Maybe this does not confirm my self-concept as a competent adult. Or maybe it’s in line with Cal Newport’s advice in Deep Work: to aggressively cut our distractions.

  7. It is perfectly fine to have students turn the cellphones off. Banning them, no. Teaching them when it’s appropriate to use them, absolutely! There are so many, outright rude and self-absorbed adults that are literally addicted to their cellphone because they were never taught the when, the where and they why of appropriate use.

    Cellphones have a wide variety of uses in the classroom but there are many things we need to be teaching that they should be off, or put away.

  8. Not sure I agree with the premise that adults can always vote with their feet. Many times I need to stay in a meeting, not check my phone, stay focused when I’m a bit bored… There will likely always be something on my phone more interesting because my phone taps the whole world. That does not diminish the need to engage with people locally, and it is unfair to demand all the people around me are as interesting as what I can find on my phone, or I will tune them out. Students need learn some self-control with phones and other distractions in order to become good collaborators.

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