Are you a teacher? Do cell phones drive you crazy? Are they an important tool in your class? Well the teachers in OSSTF District 17 wanted to know so they passed a motion at the AGM in May that compelled the executive to poll the members with the following question:
Do you believe that the negative impact of cell phones on safety, privacy and learning outweigh the positive impact relating to student engagement and digital apps?
The electronic survey ran for almost a month and the results are in. There were 146 responses from our over 1100 members and the answer was YES. 116 people agreed with the statement while 30 replied NO. There were also some interesting comments.
On the NO side we heard comments such as:
‘mobile devices are the future of learning’
‘Use it as a tool in your classroom, and set clear parameters for use...then it won't be abused. We need to be current with the times and integrate our new technologies! How else will we prepare our students for this digital world??’
‘I'm finding my students in high school are learning better when and how to use their smart phones in class. I find them to be less of a distraction then they use to be a few years back.’
‘This survey is biased because it contains a loaded question.’
On the YES side we heard:
‘Kids are addicted to their cell phones and no longer listen to lessons.’
‘Cell phones are a huge distraction’
‘students get too distracted on their phones and are unable to monitor themselves’
‘Yes, cell phones do not encourage focused learning and detract from productivity in the classroom’
‘but I think we need to teach them, with parental support, when it's ok to use them, since they are a part of the modern world.’
‘can not get them off social sites’
‘Generally yes, however, it depends on the student. The students who truly use their device as a tool manage it well. Those who do not manage it well are much more challenging to get on board with educational apps or reasonable personal management. They don't want to be in class, and the cell takes them farther out of it.’
‘It seems that with the introduction of iPads in our board the digital apps will be available. Unfortunately sometimes it is only the phones that are functional.’
‘I allow students to use phones for research but only a few do. The majority are distracted by them and I do worry about privacy and safety issues given the attitudes of the kids and the boards and administrators towards phones in class.’
‘I tried using the cell phones with the students for research at the beginning of the semester when the Windows 8.1 upgrade was interrupting network service at the beginning of the semester. Upon review with the students, their opinion was that the screens are too small to view information. Although when given a choice between computers on very slow network versus small screen on their cell phones, most will choose "faster"! They just need to ensure the network is working and tuned!’
‘It is an infringement on safety and privacy of individuals in class, and no need as in the working "real" world, cellphone use not permitted on a lot of jobs. If it was solely independent learning without an instructor, maybe it would be a different scenario.’
‘most play games and are disengaged in learning’
'90% don't use them for academic reasons.’
‘I have a strong belief that cell phone use in class is more harmful than good.’
So what’s the answer? Teachers want to teach, not constantly police the classroom and cell phones to ensure students are able to focus. Is there a happy medium? Can we teach students how to use their phones, basically mini laptops, and still get their work done? By the same token, can we teach the adults in our lives to focus on dinner or a conversation or an outing without constant cell phone distractions? Maybe the best place to start is to model appropriate behaviour. Or maybe we need a policy against having cell phones in the class. Maybe we need to continue to teach our students how to balance life and work. There comes a time when (most) individuals finally come to the realization that putting off work doesn’t make it go away, you still have to do it. Choosing to use class time to surf social media sites doesn’t make you assignments complete themselves.
The only thing I know for sure on this topic is that there is no easy answer to cell phones and the classroom.
The view from my desk, as Teacher Bargaining Unit President for D17 Simcoe