To Permit or to Ban: Revisiting Cellphone Policies, Part Two

Vol. 13 No. 8

heads eletter Vol.13 No.9 CellPhonePartTwo

In our last issue, we discussed the advantages of using cellphones during school hours. Proponents of the new policy say that cellphones provide increased educational opportunities for students—academically, personally, and emotionally—and improved lines of communication between students, parents, and administrators.

Still, many detractors decry the new practice as disruptive and counter to educational goals. So this month, we’ll examine some of the argued points against personal cellphones use during school hours.

Disruptive, Not Supportive

Those against cellphone use at schools maintain that while modern cellphones can be used to run educational applications to facilitate in-class learning, they are more often used for off-topic and distracting purposes. Popular mobile games like Candy Crush Saga and social media applications are easily accessed on cellphones. If students access the Internet via personal data networks rather than through the school's wireless provider, it becomes nearly impossible to block distracting or inappropriate websites.

The cellphone's disruptive nature is especially relevant if students forget to mute them during lectures. One 2009 study found that students' retention of presented material fell dramatically after a cellphone disrupted the learning environment. By this measure, at least, one bad phone "apple" can, indeed, spoil the bunch.

Extra Costs

Encouraging all students to use cellphones during lecture periods can also add unexpected stress to your wireless internet service, as well as extra administrative costs. When considering a BYOD program that would allow students to use cellphones in the classroom, Securedge Networks asks the following four questions that must be answered before any implementation:

  1. Can your network segment the users between students, teachers, and administrators?
  2. Can your network support multiple devices per user, as opposed to the occasional administrator or teacher?
  3. Can your network limit bandwidth use for certain applications to ensure necessary educational sites can perform when needed, despite access by multiple, simultaneous users?
  4. Do you have a database of the devices students, teachers, and administrators will use on the network, to make sure only the appropriate users are on the network?

If you answer "no" to even one of these questions, that will be an added cost in time and money to your "free" BYOD program.

Increased Negative Interactions

With access to the internet during school hours comes great power, and not every student is prepared to exercise the requisite responsibility with that power. Bullying via "anonymous" social media apps like Secret, Yik Yak, or Snapchat is easy when the platforms for that bullying can be accessed "in the moment."

Of course, public outcry to these anonymous user apps have helped to limit the effect they have on young people—Secret is shutting down and YikYak geofences certain schools that have complained, banning users from accessing the app—but these and other social media sites can have devastating effects on a young person's psyche.

Cyberbullying aside, lenient cellphone policies may also increase academic dishonesty, particularly on exams. Even if phones are required to be placed under a desk or in a locker during tests, modern technology has progressed to the point where answers can be transmitted—via phone—to a student's watch. Why, opponents of open cellphone policy ask, invite trouble if it can be avoided by requiring cellphones to be turned off during the school day?

What do you think? How has your school dealt with cellphones? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

If you’re looking to further integrate technology into your curriculum but don’t know where to begin, join us at ISM’s Summer Institute for our Train Your Faculty in Blended Learning workshop. Your faculty team will learn what technology makes sense for your school, how to move from online instruction to brick-and-mortar instruction (and back again), and the resources necessary to overcome potential roadblocks. Special team pricing available, so call 302-656-4944 to register!

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for School Heads Vol. 13 No. 7 To Permit or to Ban: Revisiting Cellphone Policies, Part One
ISM Monthly Update for Business Officers Vol. 13 No. 6 Practical Points of a BYOD Program
ISM Monthly Update for Division Heads Vol. 12 No. 3 Technology in the Classroom at St. Margaret's

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 28 No. 8 Technology and Your Faculty's Professional Development
I&P Vol. 27 No. 16 Keep Ergonomics in Mind When Integrating Classroom Technology

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