Should Cell Phones be banned in the Classroom?
Last week’s debate facilitated by Tarina and Jill, Skyler and Alyssa was an incredible conversation regarding the impact of cell phones in the classroom. Both sides did a phenomenal job shedding light on the obstacles and the opportunities that teaching in the 21st Century creates. Although my vote did not change between pre and post-debate voting (following the trend of all debates proceeding this one) their video, their talking points, the readings both groups provided and the dialogue with all of my classmates created space for me to consider the how, why and the ways in which I can enhance student engagement and learning.
Tarina and Jill argued that cell phones should be banned from the classroom. They opened their arguments with a powerful visual of a 30-minute span in a common classroom. Each time a student received a notification they were asked to make a mark on the board. You cannot deny the MANY interruptions that students received. This anecdotal observation is substantiated in the article We Should Ban Cellphones in Classrooms. The Research Backs That Up: Paul W. Bennett voiced that “Dismissing (cell phones) only serves to ignore the evidence-based research: that students’ fascination and, at times, their obsession with mobile devices is adversely affecting their performance, cognitive capacities, concentration and well-being. And while implementing a school-level ban has been tricky to accomplish, that’s not a good reason for turning a blind eye to the problem”. This made me think of an article I read a while back: Stop Letting Push Notifications Ruin your Productivity. It discussed how the brain struggles to “switch” from task to task and there is a consequence to noticing an alert. Glaveski states that “Recent estimates find that while each task switch might waste only 1/10th of a second, it can add up to a 40% productivity loss if you do lots of switching in a day. This number might be higher if bench marked against an executive who spends several hours a day in flow”. I know in my personal experience that I have to turn phone notifications off in order to reach a state of flow. Currently, as I type this, my phone is on silent and turned upside down so I can focus on writing this blog post. If I need this boundary, it is safe to assume that a classroom full of teenagers who receive exponentially more alerts may benefit from not having access to their phones. This observation is further defended in the video There’s a Cellphone in your Student’s Head. “The mere presence of our phones might be triggering automatic attention”- a neural system a brain system that unconsciously monitors for signs of critical importance, it screens out irrelevant info- but snaps us to attention when, for example, someone calls our name, an infant cries, or a siren wales”. The video is illustrating that this human reaction to notice is BIOLOGICAL- we can’t help our reaction! Phones are designed that way on our purpose and our evolutionary brain cannot distinguish an Instagram notification from that of a crying baby or wailing siren!
To further their argument that Cell Phones should be banned Tarina and Jill shared a Ted Talk Cell Phone Addiction | Tanner Welton | TEDxLangleyED (6:46) that states that “80% of children check their phones every 5 minutes”. The earlier image with the number of notifications and anecdotal observation tells me this is true. I think it would be an interesting activity for students to complete a reflection assignment about their use of technology. Most phones now provide statistics of screen time, apps used (and for how long), number of pick-ups (including a time when the pick-ups occurred). This information made me reflect on putting this to a reflective assignment. I think it would be cool for students to monitor their usage, notice patterns, reflect on emotions and experiences during a set amount of time and then self-diagnose their use and how it benefits them but also causes challenges. Perhaps this reflection is facilitated during a “regular” week, a week with a major exam, and a week when there was a relationship issue. Perhaps giving students time to reflect and watch their usage they could begin to correlate when and how technology is aiding them, and when it is a distraction that is causing undue consequences. In Debate #4 “Social Media is ruining Childhood”, Laurie and Christina shared an alarming trend of social media companies hiring Psychologists to design phones in order to increase addition. Tech Companies Use Persuasive Design to Get Us Hooked state that psychologists are a part of the design in order to get people addicted. This is not only alarming, but could be an essential fact to share with young adults that they need to be conscious of.
Shifting to the Disagree side, Skyler and Alyssa spoke about the many positives that come with using technology in class. They argued that a cell phone is an essential instrument to achieve the accessibility and equity in the classroom. With the use of a Cell Phone, most classrooms would create a 1-1 environment, where technology could aid pedagogy. Like most debates before, the critical piece to this being achieved to its potential is a PLAN. Or, as the eloquently stated “Do not ban, make a plan”. They shared an article How to Teach Your Students the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship that provides structure of how to make students aware of the responsibility that comes with using their personal devices in class. As Uncle Ben said in Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility” and the Digital Citizenship module highlights the many ways in which students need to see and act in that responsibility. “The benefits of digital citizenship for kids extend far beyond the individual. When we help students develop healthy practices on the Internet, we’re also creating a better space for everyone they interact with. If your students use technology in class, digital citizenship curriculum is one of the best ways to help everyone make the most of their time online”. It is essential as educators we model the skills, restraint and responsibility that comes with having a computer in your pocket at all times, and the digital citizenship continuum is an excellent way to lay the path for students to name and understand that responsibility.
Skylar and Alyssa also spoke about the need as classroom teachers to use technology in class in order to be active participants in diminishing the divide between privileged and marginalized students. In the Digital Citizenship continuum, it states “Teaching digital literacy and other citizenship skills can also help bridge digital equity gaps (or the “digital divide”) between students. Not all students have the same level of access to technology at home. Students from low-income or marginalized communities often have fewer digital experiences in comparison to their peers. When digital literacy is a core part of their education, the technological resources and lessons in school can help these students catch up with their classmates.” Although I agree with that notion technically, I think it is imperative we consider the other side of this coin. I wonder if teachers rely on tech in the classroom, that divide between easy access and lack of access could be further perpetuated. Our current situation of distance learning has shed great awareness to access and equity. As we discussed in Debate #2, students may not have access to resources and tech at home, so what was creating opportunity in the classroom may be doing the adverse when that location is no longer accessible to create that equity (along with public libraries and other locations where students could access tech to complete work). Therefore, the question becomes, how can we as a society ensure access not only in our classrooms where we have control, but also affecting the policies and opportunities at a higher level to ensure equitable access??? This notion of limiting the divide, in turn creates a bigger question that needs to address the systemic ways in which privileged continue to be privileged, and marginalized continue to be oppressed through lack of access.