It was inevitable that technological increases will clash with the rules of the traditional classroom, and no example is more pertinent than whether cell phones should be permitted in schools. Without historical precedent to determine a course or action, the only recourse is to weigh the pros and cons against each other and logically determine a reasonable conclusion.
A damning consideration against cell phone use in schools is the fact that, with smart phones, students can cheat during tests. It’s not hard to access Wikipedia or text message someone in the class for assistance. However, there is really nothing new here, even if the medium is different. It’s not really harder to glance at a screen than it is a well prepared cheat note. Besides, it’s easy for teachers to collect cell phones on test days, and vigilantly keeping guard against cheating is something teachers have to do anyway.
The strongest and most obvious case against cell phone possession in class is their distracting nature. Even if the ringer is turned off (something students frequently forget to do), text messaging is so ubiquitous and subtle that it’s hard for teachers to control. But teachers have contended against inventive distractions for decades, and even if smart phones are more advanced than passing notes it isn’t fundamentally very different. From the students perspective, they’re motivated by the same urge.
On the positive side, every school has a lockdown procedure in the event of an emergency. While it’s true that varying messages can cause confusion and worry amongst parents and outsiders concern for students, the ability to contact police immediately outweighs this concern. In the tragic event of a school shooting, warnings can be sent from classroom to classroom and a line can be established warning police. Yes, it’s possible for students to give false alarms and mischievously cause delay in the classrooms, but the real possibility of saving lives must be given more prominence than the disadvantages of student nuisance (something they don’t need cell phones to cause anyway).
Cell phones have provided benefits that a couple decades ago would have been considered unimaginable to attain on a wide scale. For years, schools were looking for ways to fund computers in the classroom and people protested the gap between the public and private schools’ ability to do this. Even in inner city schools, it’s not uncommon to have a student in each classroom with the ability to use the internet as a resource on behalf of the class. Even where this isn’t the case, smart phones are going to get cheaper and cheaper.
Cell phones have the ability to amplify historic problems of distraction, nuisance, and cheating. These problems create the need for modified solutions for the old problems. But the positive aspects they can deliver are new and groundbreaking. It would be a shame to allow fear and reservation to prevent us from enjoying such obvious benefits. We need visionaries uninhibited by reactionary attachments to tradition to guide policy concerning the implementation of technical advances in the classroom.