Public Relations Today
Jayne Miller By Jayne Miller • March 18, 2015

Schools That Ban Cell Phones Miss Learning Opportunities

Let’s start with a story. Last week I attended Digital Learning Day Live in Washington, DC. The program contained several moving success stories from schools across the country that have used digital practices to improve the performance - and the lives - of their students. Great stuff.

When it came time to share the story of Saint Paul High School in Saint Paul, Arkansas, we heard from Principle Daisy Dyer Duerr. Daisy described Saint Paul as she inherited it: a school that was afraid of technology, putting a lockdown on phones. This meant that Daisy had to give in-school suspension to any student who was caught with a cell phone.

That’s when it happened.

Upon hearing about the cell phone lockdown, the audience at DLDay let out a collective sigh. There were audible “oh no”s from teachers speckled across the auditorium.

I’m guessing these teachers have been able to leverage the power of mobile in their own classrooms, so hearing about schools doling out punishment for accessing devices is disheartening.

Working on Mobile

See, mobile devices represent powerful portals to social communication. They represent access to experts and peers alike. They represent personalized learning. This is why educators like Daisy have been putting an end to mobile lockdowns.

I understand that the elephant in the room is not if mobile devices can improve learning outcomes, but how.

First, if instruction and lesson-planning don’t change to accommodate mobile, there won’t be any real learning gains; students will just be allowed to have phones in class. Like any technology implementation, mobile learning initiatives require thoughtful adoption and planning. Perhaps a phone policy is needed to build the proper boundaries. But we want this all to lead to mobile class polls, visual learning opportunities, content-sharing, and personalized notifications for assignments (like we have here at Chalkup!).

Second, mobile = engagement. If a student is going to be glued to a screen every chance they get, let’s increase the odds they’re looking at something to help them study, discuss class, or get a reminder to hand in homework. 

Mobile learning is evolving like everything else. The one thing we know is that requiring students to keep their phones at home will land more students in detention and represent an opportunity missed.

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