Last week, a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that cellphones have become "near ubiquitous": 83% of American adults own one. Over half of all adult mobile phone owners had used their phones at least once to get information they needed right away. And more than a quarter said that they had experienced a situation in the previous month in which they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phones at hand.
The findings of this Pew research -- the reliance of adults on their cellphones -- stands in sharp contrast to the policies of many schools, where cellphones remained banned or restricted. Students likely have these same needs as adults: to get online and find information they need right away. But often students are banned from using their cell phones in schools, something that students themselves list as one of the greatest obstacles they face in using technology in the classroom.
For many schools, these are formal rules, written in school policy or in student handbooks. But as phones become like more extended appendages in everyone's lives, schools are rethinking their policies. MindShift asked teachers how or whether these rules were changing and received some interesting feedback.
Educator Nilda Vargas reported that students can use cell phones to access their online books, while teacher Shekema Silveri replied that although she requires cell phone usage in her class, the school policy against it hasn't changed. "Most teachers are still afraid of cell phones in the classroom because they know little about how to use them as a tool for learning," she wrote on MindShift's Facebook page.
High school teacher Kim Ibarra said that her school has gone from a "no cell phones in school at all -- not even in the hallways or at lunch" policy about four to five years ago, to "cell phone usage in the classroom if the teacher has asked for permission ahead of time with an explanation of what will be done and why it is necessary" about two years ago, to "cell phones can be used in the classroom if the teacher has students using them for educational purposes" last year, and back to the more prohibitive "students may use cell phones in the school only at lunch in a specified area" -- the policy for this upcoming year.