Allow kids cellphones in class – here’s why

By admin
03 October 2013

Education blogger Olga Channing says using cellphones in class could aid learning and encourage mutual respect.

Learners live in a world different to that of learners 10 years ago – and technology such as cellphones and computers are instrumental in this.

One of the new evils in the classroom is cellphones! Or are they?

Teachers are always complaining about cellphones:

  • Learners’ schoolwork suffers: they chat on the sly under their desks, they spend hours on cellphones and don’t get to their homework or studying.
  • Cyber bulling on cellphones often cause problems.
  • Cellphones can lead to theft increasing in schools.
  • Undesirable pictures and videos are quickly distributed.
  • Schools have to institute extra punishments and procedures regarding “illegal” use of cellphones.

But I prefer to focus on the positive. As teachers we have to adapt to the changing times. I experience few problems with learners and cellphones in the classroom.

I’ve decided instead to use them to the advantage of learners. When I’m discussing a poem or short story, learners can go to Google for information about certain issues. And they enjoy this! Or when they have to argue their case in an essay or talk, they’re allowed to use their cellphones for research.

I recently saw how this technology can be used. The learners had to write a well-argued speech. A boy who isn’t “academically motivated” listened attentively to the guidelines, took out his phone and started to research the topic. He got so much information he immediately started writing his speech.

The next day he arrived and spoke about how he enjoyed preparing for his oral because he had so many resource references. He then gave a very good speech, something he always used to rattle off quickly.

Why do we have to use rigid rules to ban and make the things learners enjoy so much a source of major conflict?

I remember when I asked them the first time to take out their phones how many surprised faces stared at me. And they enjoyed it so much!

Of course there’d be chancers who spoke to friends and didn’t work but even they later started realising the benefit of using their phones for research.

If you see a learner’s cellphone lying on the desk while they’re working there’s no need to scold them. They’re working! They just want reassurance their lifeline is at hand – something they have become so used to.

Many teachers may take a different view but this approach made things much easier for me. If a phone is heard during class I’d calmly ask for it to be switched off and put away and the learner immediately apologises.

Learners would ask me something such as, “Miss, my mom will be phoning me in a while. Could I please go arrange with her outside what time she has to fetch me after the match.” And that’s how mutual respect works.

We know children crave precisely those things they can’t get or aren’t permitted. So when cellphones are readily allowed then they’re no longer such a major attraction.

Do you think it’s a good way of dealing with cellphones in classrooms? Tell us on the Teachers for Change facebook page.

-Olga Channing

* Olga Channing is the deputy principal and Afrikaans teacher at a high school in Pretoria. She’s the author of six books for the new school curriculum and after 24 years as a teacher, she still loves her job.

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