78% of all teenagers have a cell phone. It seems to me that for the YOLO generation, a cell phone is an extra limb. For me, who has never texted, it is fascinating to know that my niece can send up to 1200 texts a month! However, there is one place where the use of a cell phone is contentious, and that is a class room. As a future English teacher, I decided to give the idea of having cell phones in class a look.
I realize that there are advantages and disadvantages to letting students use a cellphone. On the plus side, it allows students to look for information on the Internet. It is, in fact, much easier for teenagers to look a word up on the Internet using their cell phones then it is finding the information in a dictionary. Using their cell phones is what comes naturally to them. I also think that it allows for greater interaction during class. Using their cell phones, students can fact check one another and debate over vocabulary or grammar. Furthermore, because cell phones are relatively cheap, it is a device that almost everyone can afford. I mean, let’s face it, some kids cannot afford a personal computer, let alone change it regularly in order to keep up with the technology.
Even though I think that allowing cell phones in class would be a great plus, I must admit that there are some interesting counterarguments. First of all, students who can use their cell phones tend to be less focused. It is true that students can send texts, go on Facebook and just play games with their cell phones, but is it that much different from chatting up with your classmates or sending notes across the class? I think that if a student wishes to be disruptive, he or she can do it with or without a cell phone. Also, and much more pertinent I think, students often forget to turn their phones off, and even when they are off, they can be disruptive. A final argument against cell phones concerns the capacity to cheat. I find this to be the weakest of all arguments for two reasons. First of all, if we can ask students to put their textbooks and their dictionaries in their bags during an exam, why is it impossible to do the same thing with a cell phone? Second, students have been cheating long before the advent of cell phones. The way I used to cheat when I was in junior high and high school was to conveniently place the irregular verb list on my chair.
Because of the advantages cell phones offer, there are a few pioneers considering a new cell phones in a more positive light. The BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) movement and the POD (Personally Owned Devices) initiative are probably a sign of things to come. In schools guided by those principles, activities have been created so that students can use their cell phones to interact instantly with their teacher. There is still a long way to go before cell phones are openly accepted in all class room, but I believe that this will be a reality shortly and that the paradigm shift has already started. Case in point: school policies toward cell phones vary greatly and some schools already embrace their use in class. It is up to us, teachers and future teachers, to see how best our students can use cell phones.