Alice Mercer and I have recently had a couple of discussions about the use of cellphones in the classroom, and there have been a number of other recent blog posts about it — including in Darren Draper’s fine blog.
However, I’m still not convinced cellphone use in the classroom is generally a good idea.
I think having a zero tolerance for use of, and even seeing, cellphones during the school day has been a small, but important, element of the growing success of our inner-city high school. It has reduced the odds of students calling friends or family to come and participate in fights (or potential) fights. In addition, many of our students come from hectic home situations, and the added distraction and temptation of using a cellphone in class, I think, carries with it more negatives than positives (on another note, we’ve also recently banned students using ipods and mp3 players, and I’ve got to admit that I believe that this change has also been a positive development for our school culture).
I also want to note that our school certainly does not have a “police-state” mentality. We have a very relational culture, divided into small learning communities, and we overtly refuse to “teach to the test” and instead focus on developing life long learners. We have a very relational discipline system that tries to get to the root causes of conflict and does not just rely on punitive measures. We are recognized internationally for our creative use of technology in instruction. And we recently became one of the few high schools in the country to come out of Fourth Year Program Improvement status under No Child Left Behind.
I’ve been trying to keep an open mind on the topic, but still haven’t been convinced. I’m not sure where many of the primary proponents of cellphone use teach, and and wonder if any work in an inner-city high school environment. I’d be very interested in hearing about their specific experiences if they do.