How to manage cellphones in your classroom?

There are two sides to this topic.

On the one hand, it’s a behavioral and disciplinary problem. If students are using phones recreationally when they should be learning, you need tactics to stop them.

But also, phones are an opportunity to make learning appeal even more to students. If they’re encouraged to use their own, familiar device for educational purposes, their involvement and enthusiasm should rise.

Let’s look at both angles, with tips for each…

Controlling misuse

1 Set times phones are allowed

During breaks. Before the bell. Every school has moments when students are free of classroom restrictions. Make these the time when phone use is allowed.

You could even create a ‘phone break minute’ during class, for example when you’re readying the next task or topic. Rather than have students waiting, allow them to quickly catch up on messages etc. They’ll appreciate it, and respect the boundaries better as a result.

2 Make a ‘prison cell for cellphones’

As simple as a shoebox or plastic container on your desk, this is where you visibly put confiscated phones.

Set clear rules. For example, the first time you see a student on a phone, it’s a warning. Second time, drop their phone into your ‘prison’ – to be collected after class. For repeat offenders, perhaps only a parent can collect the phone!

Who knows: students might even voluntarily drop their devices into ‘prison’ at the start of class, removing the temptation themselves!

3 Walk the room

Even when you’ve given students permission to use devices for learning, you still need to watch out for misuse. Keep walking around, talking to students and keeping an eye on what those around you are doing. Are they swiftly shutting down browser windows, or double tapping the home button on their iPhone/iPad? Both are signs they’re not using the phone as they should be.

Encouraging positive use

1 Don’t keep it rigidly serious

Students are used to their device being a fun, social thing. When you want them to see it as educational as well, it helps to make that switch seamless rather than sudden.

What do mean by this? We mean keeping an element of enjoyment in tasks, especially at the start. If you’re introducing a new app or piece of software, allow students’ first experience to be about fun and exploration.

This enables them to get past any initial novelty, to then be focused.

2 Mix it up

Just as traditional books, pens and paper can get stale, so too can too much technology.

Even when you’ve encouraged students to use their phones for learning – whether it’s finding information, creating content, discussing topics or viewing movies – don’t allow them to over-rely on it.

As with any other technique, technology should be combined. In fact, it’s the synergy with other methods, including traditional ones, that’s most powerful.

3 Make phones the link between home and classroom

Whether you’re running a flipped classroom, or just want to better sync home study with class study, the phone can be the common glue.

For example, go for apps and tools that enable students to receive, track and submit assignments… Tools that enable conversations between you and students, students and peers, you and parents… Resources that empower access to vast repositories of content…

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