by Maya J '16

Is it Time to Change the Rules on Cell Phone Usage?

It has been in the rulebook so long that it has become one of the most typical bans in classrooms. No chewing gum, no cheating on tests, no cell phones. Teachers hate the sudden sound of a phone ringing in class, or the downward gaze of a student texting under the table. But it might be time to reconsider this ban as technology has changed a lot in the past several years.

Ten years ago, the cell phone was only used for a few things – texting, calling, and maybe playing a very pixelated game of Snake. It was clunky, it usually flipped open, and for the most part, we only used it to communicate with other people. When schools banned the use of cell phones, it made sense – there was truly no need to have students texting their friends in classrooms. But the cell phone has evolved remarkably fast, and the school rules have failed to evolve with it. Now, our smartphones can access social media, take photos, record video, go on the Internet, and download thousands of apps, games and songs. We can essentially find the answer to a question in less than a minute. Our phone is our camera, calculator, planner, mailbox, iPod, television, everything. Students already use their phones to quickly check their email for assignments sent from a teacher, or to monitor their grades on Engrade or Jupiter Grades.

So does it really make sense to ban cell phones so strictly? If most students bring a smartphone to school everyday, why not utilize it in the classroom? It’s getting more and more common for a teacher to let a student take out his or her phone and look up a word on, or take a photo of the homework assignment posted on the board. If we open up the possibility of limited cell phone use in class, there’s a world of things we can use our phones for that would make our lives easier. Dictionaries would become obsolete, as would timers in science class or at parent teacher conferences. Drawing diagrams of things in biology class would no longer be necessary with a camera, and we could use pictures on our phones to work from in art. If we all download a graphing calculator app, we could spare ourselves hundreds of dollars and the heartache of losing our precious calculators. There’s even a possibility that phones could be used as research tools, to look up the answers to minor clarifying questions.

But if we were to implement a new policy like this, what stops students from accessing social media and texting their friends while they sit in class? The idea that students would use cell phones for educational and productive purposes hinges on the trust between students and teachers. I believe that the potential benefits outweigh the disadvantages. In the instances when using apps on our smartphones would lessen the weight of our bags or make an activity much faster, it seems like a waste not to use them.

By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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