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Mobile Phones in the Classroom[edit]

Mobile phones are an increasingly present part of our culture. It is no wonder that mobile phones are beginning to invade our classrooms as well. The debate over whether mobile phones add or detract to our classrooms has been occurring for years and continues to rage to this day. With the proliferation of smart phones and the subsequent apps, it is becoming increasingly hard to deny that cell phones hold great promise for increasing student engagement and helping students with learning differences see academic success.

School Policies[edit]

Outside of school, students communicate with each other through a variety of mobile devices mobile device. By far, the cell phone/smartphone smartphone is the most common and most accessible device. Fifty percent (50%) of high school students in the United States (grades 9-12) have access to a smartphone.[1]

The issue of mobile devices in schools is multifaceted, and enforcing rules about them can prove difficult. [2] Rules pertaining to the use of mobile devices can vary dramatically between schools, administrators, classrooms, and teachers. Examples of these rules include, teacher discretion about use of the devices in class under particular situations, having them turned off while at school/in class, and banning them from the school/class altogether.

School officials spend much time and energy developing policies around the use of mobile devices with varying amounts of success. Adding to this debatable issue is that there has not been a lot of research performed surrounding these policies.

Individual schools create their own school policy regarding mobile devices (cell phones, mp3 players portable media player, ipods iPod, etc). There is much debate over whether or not to ban them from schools. Many educators feel strongly that mobile devices are not appropriate tools for the classroom - they consider them to be not only a distraction in an instructional environment, but a security risk to the school itself[3] Others see the educational benefit of this mobile technology mobile technology - a ban on mobile devices would thwart innovation in school[4] Overall, however, mobile devices are not popular with educators: 85% of professors surveyed stated that they wanted to ban mobile devices from classrooms[5] Certainly educators have reasonable concerns about allowing mobile devices in the classroom, such as cheating on tests with text messaging text messaging, accessing unfiltered Internet internet sites, text messaging during class instruction time, and secretly taking pictures or movies without permission.

Misuse of time is another important factor to consider when creating a mobile device policy. Teachers are frustrated with the amount of time spent on asking students to put away mobile devices and other electronic devices. Administrators are frustrated with the amount of time spent on disciplining repeat offenders. Even parents are upset when their children have these devices taken away from them in school[6] Many schools are realizing that complete prohibition does not work and that we should perhaps focus on teaching students the appropriate uses of technology. This would also address excellent opportunities to integrate technology into the curriculum curriculum.

Co-constructing policies (with student and parent input) may be beneficial in creating more harmonious schools. Students appreciate any opportunity to provide input on issues concerning themselves. If teaching responsible citizenship is an important goal of education, there is an urgent need to include student input on matters, such as, a school mobile device policy. Such involvement would also open wider discussion of the pros and cons of personal electronic devices in schools[7] Students’ understanding of how to responsibly use such devices seems vital if personal electronics are to be allowed in schools.

Advantages and Disadvantages of using a Mobile Phones in the Classroom[edit]


Cell phone or smart phone use in the classroom has many advantages. Using a cell phone in the classroom can actually save time for more teaching and learning.[8] Many students already own a cell phone so class time is not wasted teaching the technology required for a new activity. Classroom use of a cell phone may also save money. Since the great majority(98%) of students in grades 9 -12 own a cell phone [9] – schools do not have to spend the money on the hardware necessary for an activity when students are carrying it around already. Kolb also addresses the fact that students really enjoy using a cell phone, it is part of their world. Cell phones facilitate learning anytime, any place, anywhere and at their own pace. (Kolb, 2011) Kolb also points out that students need to be prepared for the 21st century. If schools model the proper use of a cell phone in class then students will be more prepared to network, schedule, gather data, take pictures and video and see that their phone is a very valuable tool and not just an expensive toy. Schools should be places where students are allowed to use the tools they are comfortable with and have access to in order to use skills needed to be successful in the 21st century. [10] The level of student engagement increases when students are on task with a cell phone. [11] Smart phones or cell phones in the science classroom are a beneficial tool. There are a variety of apps available to be used from a GPS app to timers to 3-D models . [12] Students have suggested that cell phones allow them to multi-task [13] by giving them the ability to access course material, do research and communicate with peers. A study group in a Chinese high school listed group collaboration and communication as one of their favourite parts of a learning activity. [14] Texting between students, student and teacher, student to content as well as between parent and school increases communication with the parties involved. Texting about school related info is already going on in 76% of girls and 64% of boys. [15] The use of cell phones and texting is a great assessment tool. [16] Cell phones promote a positive participatory culture in the classroom. Parents want their children to have cell phones to help with scheduling and safety. Cell phones are also a tool carried by many administrators and teachers who use them for communication with colleagues through the day.


Disadvantages or barriers to cell phone use in the classroom can be divided into two categories; external and internal [17] The external barriers involve access to internet, access to a phone and the cost of providing these services. The internal barrier involves teacher attitude. In the last decade because of the evolution of a smart phone other barriers have come to people’s attention. Cheating is an issue in many high schools, in a recent study done by Common Sense media, one third of high school students admitted to cheating using their cell phones. [18] Cyberbullying is on the rise. A study showed that 26% of teens have been harassed through their cell phone by calls or texts. [19] Sexting ; students have used cell phones to secretly take inappropriate photographs of themselves or peers and send these images to someone else . As many as one in five teens have sent a nude or semi-nude ohoto of themselves to someone in a text message.[20] Some students take video of their teachers or classmates and upload the video on youtube without their knowledge. Some students create edited videos that use popular soundtracks and sound effects to poke fun at their teacher. [21] SMS is a word used to describe the slang used when sending text messages. Many educators have concern over this type of slang research does not support the idea that this will alter a student’s understanding of the English language. [22]

Mobile Devices as Assistive Technology[edit]

Using mobile devices in the classroom has helped to improve the learning experiences of many students, but it can be especially helpful for students who may have a learning difficulty. While the details of mobile learning are still in their relative infancy, there have been some studies undertaken that prove that mobile learning can be an effective tool that helps students learn.

One of the biggest challenges educators face is trying to improve a student’s attention span. One of the strategies used to increase students’ on-task behavior in the classroom is self- monitoring strategies. Self-monitoring has been proven in several academic studies to be a successful method “to improve attention, academic productivity, and decrease off-task behavior in the classroom” [23]. Self-monitoring has been shown to be effective with a variety of students including students with behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, autism, and mild to severe cognitive impairments.

Self-monitoring is a process whereby students use self-observation of whether or not they were on task at pre-determined intervals of time, and then self-recording whether or not they were on task at said intervals. Traditionally, self-monitoring required an audio reminder for students to self-observe and record. Teacher prompt or a tape recording of sounds had been used in the past. The traditional methods of self-monitoring could be difficult as it could be disruptive to the learning of other members of the class who were not required to self-monitor” [24].

While there are no studies readily available that examine how mobile devices can assist students in the implementation of self-monitoring strategies, there are studies that examine how a particular type of technology, The MotivAider (a beeper, a primitive cell phone), was able to increase students’ on-task behavior” [25]. From this study, it is easy to see how many of the helpful characteristics of MotivAider can be translated to mobile devices. For example, with many mobile phones there are features that will help students to self-monitor simply by lighting up, and/or vibrating. These new methods of self-monitoring are preferable to traditional methods for several reasons. First, and perhaps most important, the students who are in need of self-monitoring see the technology as “cool;” they do not feel stigmatized by using it and are therefore much more likely to use it consistently” [26]. Secondly, teachers find that it requires very little in terms of extra work on their part to set up the intervention” [27]. Teachers are not as likely to participate in an intervention that requires a considerable time commitment on their part.

Mobile devices also hold a lot of promise for students in language acquisition. Smart phones allow students to access on-line dictionaries. There have also been studies that have proven the effectiveness of using mobile devices to improve students’ pronunciation when learning ” [28]. Participants in one study that was undertaken in China stated that using self-phones for learning English made them feel like “English is not merely in books,” and that “English is everywhere ” [29].

The plethora of mobile apps that have been developed for iPhone, android (operating system), and BlackBerry are proving to be very promising. Programs like Dragon Naturally Speaking, Sosh, and Penultimate hold promise for helping students to improve upon their learning. New apps for smart phones are developing on an almost daily basis and can be correlated to specific subject areas. These apps are sure to be utilized in coming years as an additive to the assistive technology that is confined to the traditional desktop or laptop computer.

Two Ugandan Students Texting

Mobile Device Etiquette in the Classroom[edit]

In classrooms, instructors compete with and are regularly interrupted by various forms of technology, and in the modern day classroom the mobile phone appears to be the most pervasive. Although the use of mobile technology is encouraged by society as well as institutions of education, mobile devices and their applications raise the issue of their appropriateness of use under varying circumstances, particularly the classroom. [30]

Etiquette Definition[edit]

1. conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion. 2. a prescribed or accepted code of usage in matters of ceremony, as at a court or in official or other formal observances. 3. the code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other: medical etiquette. [31]

Erving Goffman'siii research in the study of rules of conduct or what he calls situational proprieties refers to when in the presence of others, an individual is guided by a set of rules or situational proprieties. In examining the structure and function of such social norms regulating behavior, Goffman distinguishes rules of conduct appropriate for various situations, or in other words, adhering established etiquette in various situations.[32]

General Mobile Device Etiquette[edit]

(link to Wikipedia Emily Postiv lists four essential rules for using a mobile device. These are: 1. Turn off your ringer if it will bother others around you, such as in a public area. Specifically remember to turn off your phone if you are in a meeting, at a play or movie or concert, or in a quiet place like a library or church. 2. Step away from others if you are making or receiving a phone call so you do not disturb the people around you. 3. Don’t talk about personal, private or confidential information if you are in a place where other people might overhear you. If needed, arrange to speak at another time. 4. Watch your volume. Even if you cannot hear the person on the other end, they can hear you. Remember that the background noise is on your side, not theirs.[33]

General Social Norms Regarding Mobile device Use in Public Areas[edit]

According to Jacqueline Whitmorev, one of the nation's leading voices in etiquette and protocol, wireless phone users can practice the following to avoid bothering others: 1. Be all there. When you’re in a meeting, performance, courtroom or other busy area, let calls go to voicemail to avoid a disruption. In some instances, turning your phone off may be the best solution. 2. Keep it private. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid discussing private or confidential information in public. You never know who may be in hearing range. 3. Keep your cool. Don’t display anger during a public call. Conversations that are likely to be emotional should be held where they will not embarrass or intrude on others. 4. Learn to vibe. Use your wireless phone's silent or vibration settings in public places such as business meetings, religious services, schools, restaurants, theaters or sporting events so that you do not disrupt your surroundings. 5. Avoid cell yell. Remember to use your regular conversational tone when speaking on your wireless phone. People tend to speak more loudly than normal and often don't recognize how distracting they can be to others. 6. Follow the rules. Some places, such as hospitals or airplanes, restrict or prohibit the use of mobile phones, so adhere to posted signs and instructions. Some jurisdictions may also restrict mobile phone use in public places. 7. Excuse yourself. If you are expecting a call that can’t be postponed, alert your companions ahead of time and excuse yourself when the call comes in; the people you are with should take precedence over calls you want to make or receive. 8. Send a message. Use Text Messaging to send and receive messages without saying a single word. 9. Watch and listen discreetly. New multimedia applications such as streaming video and music are great ways to stay informed and access the latest entertainment. However, adjust the volume based on your surroundings in much the same way that you would adjust your ringer volume. Earphones are a great way to avoid distracting others in public areas. 10. Alert silently. When using your phones walkie-talkie feature, send the person you're trying to reach a Call Alert before starting to speak. If you're around other people, turn off your phone's external speaker and use the vibration setting to minimize any disturbance and to respect your contact's privacy. 11. Be a good Samaritan. Use your mobile device to help others. According to CTIA, The Wireless Association, more than 224,000 calls a day are made to 911 and other emergency numbers by mobile phone users who report crimes and potentially life-threatening emergencies. 12. Focus on driving. Practice wireless responsibility while driving. Don’t make or answer calls while in heavy traffic or in hazardous driving conditions. Place calls when your vehicle is not moving, and use a hands-free device to help focus attention on safety. Always make safety your most important call. 13. Spread the word. Discuss mobile device manners with friends and family members. Tell them that you are practicing new wireless phone etiquette rules and offer to share them. [34]

General Mobile device Etiquette For Kids[edit]

Wirefly, a mobile device retailer, suggests the following mobile device etiquette that children with mobile devices should always follow: 1. It’s not ok to let a mobile device ring during class, in the library or during school concerts. 2. Driving while talking on a mobile device isn’t safe and diverts attention from where it should be – paying attention to the road. 3. Use a calling plan with the minimal minutes necessary and limit the mobile device use to brief chats rather than long conversations. Estimate the total number of minutes of talk time and choose a calling plan accordingly. 4. Minutes not included in your mobile device plan incur overage charges, which are costly. If your parents foot your mobile device bill, don’t rack up overage time unless you’re prepared to pay for the extra minutes you talked above and beyond your plan. 5. When using a mobile device, respect the earshot of other students. Maintain your distance by talking several feet away from others. 6. Keep ringtone downloads off at all times during school. It’s fine to add ringtone downloads for mobile device use, but the vibrate or silent mode is best during school hours. During class times maintain mobile device etiquette by turning mobile devices off.[35]

According to Greg Taillonvii in his article titled, Mobile device Etiquette for Your Child, the guidelines for mobile device use by children are as follows:

  • No mobile devices to be used during class.
  • Limit mobile device use to lunch, breaks and after school pickup.
  • Cell space rule: No mobile device use within 20 feet of another student.
  • No ringing mobile devices or ring tones of any kind at school.
  • Vibrate-only calls in an emergency only – no loud ring tones.
  • Provide a headset for the child.
  • Limit the monthly minutes to a bare minimum.
  • Teach cell etiquette, and respect others.[36]

General Classroom Etiquette[edit]

Establishing Classroom Etiquette The use of devices such as mobile devices in the classroom, coupled with some students not being aware of behavioral standards as well as the impact of their actions on others, can lead to distractions and interruptions. According to the University of California Standards of Conduct for Students,[37] the following disruptions counteract classroom etiquette:

Disruption in the classroom may include: •side conversations, ringing mobile devices or using a cell phone to talk or send text messages • interrupting the instructor or other students • monopolizing class discussion and refusing to defer to instructor, or listen to others; persisting when the instructor has indicated that the student’s remarks are off topic and it is time to move on • entering late/leaving early, moving about the classroom • filming, photographing, or taping the class • yelling, arguing, swearing, bullying, or other intimidating behavior • reading, sleeping, eating, drinking, or not paying attention • shuffling through papers, cleaning out a backpack or purse during lecture • showing up to class under the influence of alcohol/drugs

Mobile device Use in the Classroom (USA)[edit]


12% of all students say they can have their phone at school at any time. 62% of all students say they can have their phone in school, just not in class. 24% of teens attend schools that ban all mobile devices from school grounds. Still, 65% of cell-owning teens at schools that completely ban phones bring their phones to school every day. 58% of cell-owning teens at schools that ban phones have sent a text message during class. 43% of all teens who take their phones to school say they text in class at least once a day or more. 64% of teens with mobile devices have texted in class; 25% have made or received a call during class time.[38]

Survey - mobile device voice calls made in past year in a classroom while a class was in session –USA- 11.7% of respondants -text messages sent in past year in a classroom while a class was in session –USA-34.6% of respondants.[39]

Mobile Device Etiquette in the Classroom[edit]

Examples of Inappropriate Digital Communicationxi • Students leave ringers on high volume and keep their phones on during class time. • Students use instant messaging and e-mail shorthand for class assignments when asked to give complete answers. • tudents use text messaging to cheat on tests.

Examples of Appropriate Digital Communication • Students and teachers use digital communication devices when they will not interrupt what is going on in the school or classroom. • Digital communication technologies such as IM and blogs are used to support student activities in the classroom, such as sharing ideas or writings with others. • eachers use blogs to inform parents of classroom activities.[40]

Digital Citizenship[edit]

According to Dr. Mike Ribblexii, author of Digital Citizenship in Schools, Digital citizenship can be defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use. Digital Citizenship is a concept which helps teachers, technology leaders and parents to understand what students/children/technology users should know to use technology appropriately. Digital Citizenship is more than just a teaching tool; it is a way to prepare students/technology users for a society full of technology. Too often we are seeing students as well as adults misusing and abusing technology but not sure what to do. The issue is more than what the users do not know but what is considered appropriate technology usage.

Technology users often see this area as one of the most pressing problems when dealing with Digital Citizenship. We recognize inappropriate behavior when we see it, but before people use technology they do not learn digital etiquette (i.e., appropriate conduct). Many people feel uncomfortable talking to others about their digital etiquette. Often rules and regulations are created or the technology is simply banned to stop inappropriate use. It is not enough to create rules and policy, we must teach everyone to become responsible digital citizens in this new society.[41]

The ISTE NETS and Performance Indicators for Students National Educational Technology Standardsxiii-USA 1 of the 6 Performance Indicators is as follows:

Digital Citizenship Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Students: a. advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology b. exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity c. demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning d. exhibit leadership for digital citizenship[42]


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