Cell Phones in the Classroom

Here we go again...

First things first: I love my cell phone; we all do. And by we, I mean teachers and students alike. Cell phones are great. If in some museum we venture to find a 90’s cellular phone, we will be amazed. Size-wise they look like a military edition hand-held VHF radio receiver/transmitter. But those in the military are powerful, waterproof
and bulletproof. 90’s cellphones are weak, with no features, non-existent coverage and huge monthly bills. Yes, we are blessed to have our smartphones, replete with applications for everything: there is an App for that!

Now the down-side: cell phones are a distraction, a big one. Given the choice to watch YouTube, play FIFA18, text your bestie or listen to the lesson, a student can easily lose focus and valuable points from the course grade. Even if we keep it in our pocket or in our bags, phones tickle us to get them out and check our Instagram or the Instagram of a favorite public figure. Imagine when physics and math get in the way of learning the latest Hollywood gossip, there is a lot of that going around lately. After all education is meant to connect us with the world and the mysteries of
the Universe, phones are meant to connect us with the world and the mysteries of, well, our immediate Universe, so they both serve the same purpose.

In all seriousness, if I were a teacher and a student was caught looking into the cellphone, I would be upset. Isn’t my lesson interesting enough? The answer is: it is not supposed to be. School prepares us for life. And in life, we cannot expect to go to a business meeting and ignore our partners to look into Instagram, no matter what the occasion (even if it is one of the many Hollywood divorces). Many things are not exhilaratingly exciting, but we still have to do them: school, work, the dentist, washing our feet (you know who you are, we all do). And this is how we get to my opinionated opinion for today.

I believe that students should be ALLOWED to have their phones in class, on their person or in their bag. Phones should not be kept in a separate area away from the student. Why? First, because school should prepare us for our life after we depart from the JFK High School parking lot. Out there, we are responsible for our own actions. Imparting the sense of responsibility is an integral element of our education. Maybe one day I might forget a certain algebraic equation (maybe that day is tomorrow) but learning not to check our phone during class, a meeting, an inter view or a public appearance is a lesson we should NEVER forget!

Furthermore, a phone can also serve an educational merit and many teachers already ask their students to use their phone for research, to update their homework or to fill out important forms with personal information. At last, a cell
phone is a means of safety; there have been school attacks in the past and thanks to the personal cellular phones many lives were saved, the police was notified and given precious details during the lock-downs and the raids. That would not be possible with the phones removed away from the student or from a compromised office phone, especially in the tragic scenario of a terrorist or violent attack.

In conclusion, we all love our phones and I am sure it is a huge temptation to focus in our work at hand and not get into our phone whether we are in school or at home studying or at the library. But in life we need to learn to have self-discipline and say NO to temptations and distractions, not because we cannot do certain things, but because we choose not to do certain things. No matter how much we love our phone, if using it in class means that a teacher will reduce our grade or take us to the principal for further disciplinary action, then we know an important lesson in action and reaction, choice and consequence, responsibility and accountability. This is a life lesson, more important than the latest technology smart phone; did I mention how much I love my phone?