According to The National School Safety and Security Services, an Ohio-based national school consulting firm that provides services to schools, government agencies and public safety organizations, among others, across the US, on a contracted basis, people have been particularly alerted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US. For that reason, in light of national tragedies, parents wished their children to carry a cell phone at school, as a means have direct communication should an emergency occurs or be reassured their children are safe to and from school. But, is carrying a cell phone at school the same as using it in class? Definitely not. Student safety is other than using cells phones for gang and drug activities, like when a decade ago (The National School Safety and Security Services).
The most prevailing reason for banning cell phones in class is because they are “disruptive to the educational environment” (The National School Safety and Security Services). Strayer and Johnston(2001) have concluded that any cell phone conversation, and even the ring of the cell phone, is enough to disrupt any secondary task performance, and that any conversation or answer to a texted message requires the voluntary attentional control processes that had to utilize the resources used in other ongoing activities. So, it is obvious that when people try to focus on a specific task, for example pay attention to a lecture, the use or ringing of the cell phone will make them turn their mind away from their primarily goal and focus on something else, setting back their learning process.
We may live in a world where task switching and multi-tasking is required to cope with the increased responsibilities. However, switching between cognitive tasks has not yet proven to be an effective learning method. As a matter of fact, Monsell (2003) from the School of Psychology, University of Exeter, has concluded that people who task-switch are slower and more prone to make mistakes in their ongoing task activity, as soon as they are called to turn their focus on another task too. Again, it is apparent that cell phone use in class will distract not only the student that will need to answer their cell phone, send a text, refresh their status in social networks, surf the internet, or use the cell phone any other way, but also other students that will watch a fellow student using the phone, searching in their bag to find their vibrating cell phone or using it in any other given way.
In terms of school safety, The National School Safety and Security Services reports that there have been numerous cases when students have used their cell phones to make school-bomb threat pranks, and surprisingly enough, most such calls could never be traced. Additionally, in a crisis, the hundreds, and in many cases thousands, phone calls from cell phones usually overloads the school’s telephone system, making it practically useless (The National School Safety and Security Services). In other words, the use of cell phones at schools could probably cause more harm than good during a crisis. Consequently, due to students’ unreachability, parents tend to swarm the school at a time when the school needs to be evacuated for safety reasons, making things worse. On the other hand, no one can accuse parents for worrying about their children’s safety when out of the house, which is probably wiser to allow students carry their cell phones at school, but turn them off during teaching time. An article posted in the Guardian on November 27, 2012, written by Patrick Barkham and Stephen Moss, author/writer and author/editor respectively, mentions that the Scottish government regards mobile use in class a distracting influence that promoted cyberbullying, not to mention cheating in tests, which raises new concerns in academia, as per .
Opposing views support that mobile phones can become learning tools and be incorporated in a new updated learning process. Journalist Josh Higgins wrote an insightful article posted in USA Today, in August, 2013, according to which, there have been attempts to implement motivating programs that urged students to use their mobile devices, like their cell phones, for schoolwork. For instance, in Mason High School near Cincinnati, students use mobile apps and the internet to provide “feedback on student progress, and also to document labs, collaborate on group projects and capture teachers' notes”. Unfortunately, though, the director of the US. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, Richard Culatta, admitted that a profound 80 percent of US schools lack infrastructure to support digital learning (Higgins). Hopefully, this shall change in the years to come.
A major national survey initiated by Dr. S. John Obringer, Professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education at Mississippi State University, and Dr. Kent Coffey, a Professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education at Mississippi State University has showed that it was classroom teachers, rather than students, that had actually used their cell phone for non-school business, while they practicing their role as educators, in class (41). But, could banning cell phone use prove effective? A project called The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that was undertaken in collaboration with the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, documents that school bans are not effective (Pew Internet). In detail, about 65 percent of students that own a cell phone use it to send texts during class, in schools that forbid the use of cell phones in class.
Unquestionably, young people today, like students, are very familiar with new technologies and advanced uses of mobile phones. It is true that cell phones in class can be used to distract students from learning and an ongoing class task, but, at the same time, they can be used as learning tools. It all depends on how they are used and how motivated are students and educators alike to go with the flow and implement new technologies in the learning process that will make learning easier for all. However, imposing penalties and restricting the use of cell phones in class might not be the best means to effectively act; but finding resourceful ways to incorporate a favorite trend and habit among youths to enhance learning as the world has known it so far is definitely something worth seeing into.
Barkham, Patrick and Moss, Stephen (2012). Should mobile phones be banned in schools? The Guardian. Website.
Higgins, Josh (2013). More schools use cellphones as learning tools. USA Today. Website. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/personal/2013/08/07/views-shift-on-cell-phones-in-schools/2607381/>
Monsell S. Task switching. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 2003;17:134–140. Pubmed.gov. Website.
Obringer, John and Coffey, Kent (n.d). Cell Phones in American High Schools: A National Survey. The Journal of Technology Studies. V.33. Nr.1. 41-45. <http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JOTS/v33/v33n1/obringer.pdf>
PEW Internet (2010). Press Release: Teens and Mobile Phones. Website. <http://pewinternet.org/Press-Releases/2010/Teens-and-Mobile-Phones.aspx>
The National School Safety and Security Services (n.d). Cell Phones and Text Messaging in Schools. Website. <http://www.schoolsecurity.org/trends/cell_phones.html>
Strayer DL, Johnston WA. Driven to distraction: Dual-task studies of simulated driving and conversing on a cellular telephone. Psychological Science. 2001;12:462–466. Pubmed.gov. Website.