Should Cell Phones Be Banned From the Classroom? Absolutely Not

April 12, 2017

Banning smart phones in class is not a realistic solution. It's better to have students learn how to deal with a smartphone in school to be productive.

I am amazed at the number of schools and classrooms that still ban students from bringing their own devices, especially smartphones, to class.

Smartphones are becoming an integral part of our culture. According to research by the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. This number has risen from 35 percent to 77 percent in the past six years and continues to rise.

The following are just a few of the positive ways we can use smartphones:

  • improve productivity
  • communicate and collaborate
  • do research
  • access calendars
  • store and access files
  • take notes
  • etc...

So, why is there still so much resistance to allowing smartphones in every classroom? This is a question that I’ve asked many educators, and I often hear a similar version of the following answer:

“Smartphones are a distraction. Students use them to text and go on social media while they’re in class."

I agree, but rather than ban smartphones from the classroom, let's use this as a teachable moment. Perhaps it’s time to teach our students that:

You don't refrain from using your phone while someone is talking to you because it’s a rule... you refrain from using your phone while someone is talking to you because it’s rude.

In my classroom, I’ve allowed students to use smartphones. I believe it has improved the quality of learning.

Yes, I've had many students text, or visit social media, while I was talking, but I've followed this up with one-on-one conversations letting the student know that when they do this, it comes across as rude and disrespectful.

Every semester, the number of these distractions decreases over time. Eventually, it becomes extremely rare to see a student abuse this privilege, because they realize that it comes across as rude. I like to think that I’ve taught these students something more important than any of the content from my course.

Instead of running away from this problem, I think we need to meet it head-on and help teach students learn how to use smartphones appropriately.  If we’re trying to prepare students to be successful in their futures, does it make sense to pretend smartphones don’t exist?

We've all heard – or told – the story of a toddler we know who can navigate a smartphone better than we can, but somehow we've used this story as proof that today's students are already proficient at using technology effectively. Sure, most students can navigate technology better than any generation before them, but this doesn't mean that they know how to use it to be more productive.

My challenge:  Let’s help them learn this.

Oliver Schinkten is an expert in learning and teaching, specializing in supporting educators as they work to empower their students. He’s taught more than 20 LinkedIn Learning courses, check them out here.