Cellphones in Classrooms Sparks Debate

July 23, 2009 1 min read

Fans of cellphones as instructional tools see them as a natural way to engage students in lessons using some of the nifty applications for polling and Web searching that many of today’s devices allow. I’m pretty sure that’s what some of the guests of an Webinar later today will be arguing.

But the naysayers also have some good points about how mobile devices can distract students in the classroom from the lessons at hand. This blog post on has a discussion between college professors about their dismay over cellphone use in their classes, and some interesting comments from those with a different view. As a New York adjunct professor in philosophy writes:

My students read texts, discuss them, and consider philosophical problems; I do everything I can to make our activities stimulating, and I make use of technological aids when appropriate, but can't see how introducing more bells and whistles will bring anything more [to] this process. I can't consider their phones anything but a distraction.

Siobhan Curious, a Canadian academic and the blogger at Classroom as Microcosm who answers questions addressed to “Dear Siobhan,” agrees, to a point:

Some argue that in contemporary society, our students need to learn how to multitask effectively. I would argue just the opposite: that today's young people - and adults, for that matter, myself included - need to learn to STOP multitasking, and to focus on one task, with concentration, for an extended period of time.

Some commenters, however, are taking issue with that viewpoint. One asks why the profs want to trample on students’ rights, describing how his cellphone is his lifeline to information and primary method of taking notes in class.

It’s making for a great discussion on the blog, one that could just as easily apply to the high school, or even middle school, classroom as to higher ed. I recommend you take a look.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.