The Cellphone Debate Continues in my Head

Week four of the winter 2019 EDTC 400 great Ed-tech debate left me in the hot seat! This week, our class was debating the topic of whether or not cellphones should be banned in the classroom and I was responsible for arguing that they should be. My classmate Cody put up a fight against me supporting that cellphones should be allowed in classrooms and Tianna found herself testifying that cell phones should only be permitted in high school classrooms. Our class’ vote prior to the debate illustrated that many of my peers believed that cellphones should be present in classrooms whether it be strictly in high school or all of the time. Thus, I knew I had my work cut out for me in providing arguments that would poke at my classmates’ beliefs and expose them to new perspectives. Our class’s vote after the debate did illustrate that I persuaded some of my classmates but that majority of my class still believed that cellphones have a role in the classroom. This was not surprising to me, after all, we are all here to promote ed-tech!

Class vote prior to the debate


Class vote after the debate







Outlining the Key Arguments of the Three Angles 

A) Cellphones should always be banned in classrooms:

The arguments that I presented to the class could be classified as “the 4 D’s”:

1) Distracting: From my research, I found out that on average students spend 20% of their class time every day on their personal devices which takes away from precious learning opportunities and collaborative discussions. This idea leads to the Attention Residue Effect which explains how one’s ability to focus and produce quality work suffers when they attempt to multitask and devote attention to multiple things at once. The mere presence of a cellphone can be distracting and ultimately hinders learning opportunities in classrooms disrespectful, disruptive, and dangerous in the classroom.


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2) Disrespectful: Similarly to how the use of cellphones in business meetings, around the dinner table, or at live performances is viewed as disrespectful, they can also be disrespectful in classrooms. Banning cellphones in classrooms can help students learn that they are capable of thinking for themselves and that they do not need to be reliant on them. Another argument that can be made regarding respect is how cellphones permit forms of cheating and plagiarism to appear as acceptable norms which undermines the integrity of institutional learning.

40643096181_d7955e01ec3) Disruptive: The bright lights, flashy screens, and alarming sound effects of cellphones disrupt classroom learning environments and take the focus away from purposeful learning objectives. Permitting the use of cellphones in classrooms has a detrimental effect when teachers are constantly stopping instruction to police individuals on their smartphones. These irritating interruptions take away from valuable learning time, permit teachers or other students to lose their trains of thought, and cause classes to lose focus on the task at hand.

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4) Dangerous: Cellphones are negative tools that interfere with the ability of administration and public service officials to manage troublesome activities such as bomb threats, school shootings, suicide, cyberbullying, and peer pressure. This article explains how it is common for communication networks to become overloaded during times of crisis due to the use of cellphones which increases the probability of amplified tragedy. The ability of cellphones to trigger emergencies is a dark reality that is extremely problematic.

For a more detailed explanation of “the 4Ds” that argue why cellphones should be banned in classrooms please refer to my blog post introducing my portion of the debate and watch my video included below.

B) Cellphones should never be banned in classrooms:

Cody’s arguments are based on the idea that cellphones are an important part of our lives and will continue to influence how we live in the years to come. Thus, he argued that cellphones should be implemented in classrooms so that students can learn how to use them appropriately and effectively in preparation for their futures. He explained how students should not be denied the right to use cellphones as a tool to enhance their learning. His key arguments included:

1) Cellphones are a major part of society: As the popularity of cellphones in society continues to flourish and the list of their beneficial uses continues to grow, it is easy to imagine that they can have a vital role in the classroom. An article written by Michelle McQuigge explains how many schools are opting away from cellphone bans and learning to adapt to the times and embrace the many advantages of cellphones. Integrating cellphones into the classroom provides students with the opportunity to learn when it is appropriate for them to be on their phones, develop positive digital identities, and become comfortable using platforms safely that they will continue to explore in their everyday lives. An article comprised by the Star Editorial Board suggests that cellphones have “become an integral part of our lives and that classrooms are a good place for students to learn how to use them responsibly”.


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2) Immediate access to online tools and resources: The use of cellphones not only permits information to be accessible but also develops an environment that promotes open communication and collaboration. Having the support of one’s peers and teachers both in and out of the classroom is important and digital platforms exist to make this support easily attainable for all classroom participants. Seesaw and Google Classroom are two platforms Cody highlighted because they permit for the flow of work handed in and out, feedback, and open dialogue to be natural. This article published by Oxford Learning suggests how lessons do not always need to focus on the integration of technology but that digital tools can be used to help students perform to their best ability, develop study habits, and organize their time and projects.

46850579361_c5f32ff8093) Inquiry Benefits: Some of the best conversations in classrooms stem from questions that need to be researched as they permit learning opportunities for all members of the classroom.  Cellphones permit access to the internet which is loaded with information to be at our fingertips all the time. In the classroom, this can be seen as a benefit because when students pose a question that the teacher is unsure about, it can be searched in no time at all to extend learning in directions that are engaging for the students. This article written by Nick Pandolfo addresses how permitting personal cellphones in the classroom can help eliminate the “digital divide” that is occurring between schools who have funding to provide technology to their students and those that do not. Allowing the use of individual cellphones provides students at less fortunate schools to have access to online resources and supplemental materials that can help enhance their learning and prevent them from falling behind students who do have access to technology at their schools.

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Check out Cody‘s video below for more explanation concerning his arguments.


C) Cellphones should only be allowed in Highschool classrooms:

Tiana had the difficult position of outlining arguments both in favour of and against permitting cellphones in the classroom. She focused her arguments on the idea that there are both disadvantages and advantages for having cellphones in the classroom but that in high school the advantages greatly outweigh the disadvantages.

A) Why cellphones should be banned in Elementry and Middle Schools:

1) Physical Health Risks: Exposure to the microwavable radiation emitted by cellphones which is a class 2B carcinogen is associated with many health risks which can have serious negative impacts on younger children. An article written by Roxanne Nelson explains how due to the fact that children’s brain tissues are more absorbent, and that their skulls are thinner and relatively smaller than adults, they are vulnerable to greater risks than adults. With the connection to cancer, many scientists and health officials including Nora Volkow, the highest-ranking health official in the United States, question why we permit children to use cellphones knowing the major risks to their health.


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2) Mental Health Risks: The overuse and misuse of technology can lead to serious mental health disorders. This can be more common among younger individuals because they may not understand how to safely and responsibly use their devices. Many individuals become over-reliant on their cellphones because they are constantly available and provide feelings that we are not alone but screens cannot replace face to face human interactions. With research linking smartphone use among young people to sleep disruption, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and increased risk of suicide it does not make sense for schools to be promoting this use.

3) Cyberbullying: All forms of bullying are extremely inappropriate and can have detrimental effects on the victims. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is difficult to detect and control, and has become an undesirable net effect of cellphone use amongst children. Hiding behind a screen allows people to be more expressive than they would in face to face public encounters which becomes dangerous and amplifies attacks on individuals’ character and well-being. While cyberbullying can occur through the use of any technological device cellphones make it easy for students to participate in hurtful activities. Jodee Redmon’s article addresses how cyberbullying in elementary schools is a growing problem and the use of cellphones is a factor in this issue.

B) Why cellphones should be allowed in High Schools

1) Preparation for Adulthood: As Cody discussed, cellphones are continually becoming a greater part of society and thus schools should be responsible for providing students with opportunities to learn skills concerning appropriate use of cellphones. By permitting cellphones in high school classrooms, students will have the opportunity to develop self-control and mature digital identities. The value of a student-focused approach to education is incredibly high and thus preparing students for their technological futures should be a goal in high school classrooms. This involves allowing students to explore educational uses of their mobile devices and promoting safe online activity in classrooms.


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2) Difficult to Regulate: Whether or not there is a cellphone ban in place in schools their will always be students who want to “push the envelope” and choose to disobey the classroom rule. Thus, Tiana argued that rather than banning cellphones, teachers should find ways to incorporate them into the classroom and take advantage of the many benefits they can have on learning. She also explained how school provided devices can give students access to cellphone simulating platforms and thus banning cellphones would not eliminate the use of distracting media platforms in classrooms. Banning the use of cellphones does not mean students will be more focused and thus, is it really worth it?

3) Diverse Learning Strategies: We all know that individuals learn best through different strategies and with the use of technology, educators can incorporate visual, audio, kinesthetic, and verbal approaches to learning into their lessons. Tiana addressed that schools can not always afford to provide devices for all of their students but by allowing the use of personal cellphones technology can still be incorporated into classrooms. An article published by the Cult of Pedagogy addresses how for some schools the access to reliable internet is scarce let alone devices for all students. To avoid the “digital divide” discussed under Cody’s arguments personal cellphones and data plans could be used to incorporate technology into less fortunate classrooms. However, this then draws up the question of what if every student does not have a personal device or data plan?

Tiana‘s fun Powtoon video listed below elaborates on her ideas in greater detail.

So What Do I Believe?

During the debate, I had to focus my arguments on why cellphones should be banned in classrooms but there were many discussion topics that challenged my assigned perspective and influenced my actual beliefs concerning the use of cellphones in the classroom. As a future educator, I want to be accepting of change and develop a classroom atmosphere that is engaging for my students and reflective of modern-day values. Due to the major influence of cellphones on society, it is difficult to imagine them being completely banned from classrooms but I do hold many reservations about permitting them to be used freely during class time. We all know that cellphones are not going anywhere and that they will continue to play a major role in the lives of our future students but is that enough to say they should be incorporated in classrooms? There are serious risks associated with the use of cellphones in classrooms but on the other end banning cellphones will also introduce challenges into classrooms. Due to the research that I conducted for the particular side of the debate that I was tasked with, I do believe that cellphones are distracting, disrespectful, disruptive, and dangerous to have in classrooms. Simply Take a look at this photo that tallies the notifications that disrupted a class in one single period shared by Dr. Alec Couros. It clearly illustrates the disruptive nature of cellphones.

As you can see, my thoughts are a jumble and I am not sure where my beliefs lie on this topic. I think once I gain more classroom experience I will have better perspectives on how cellphones can be incorporated into classrooms to enhance learning opportunities but for now, the debate of whether or not cellphones should be permitted in classrooms continues in my head.




2 thoughts on “The Cellphone Debate Continues in my Head

  1. Hey Kendall,
    Don’t worry about your thoughts being a jumble because I am right there with you! Even after I wrote my blog post where I did choose a side (that cell phones should only be allowed in high school classrooms), I still find myself bopping back and forth between all three sides. There is so much to consider. Going into the debate, I honestly thought you would have it the hardest in arguing the cellphone should always be banned in classrooms, but you did a fantastic job and raised some really great points! Your fellow debaters also made some thought provoking points as well, which only added to my confusion. I agree that this may be a topic that we will develop stronger opinions on once we gain more classroom experience!
    You summarized the major points in the debate very well so I think that others reading this post may also struggle with choosing a side! I loved hearing all the different perspectives thought!


    • Thank- you for your continuous support Lauren! As educators it is important to know that we are not alone that we are allowed to be conflicted. I always look forward to your positive attitude and I greatly appreciate you recognizing my efforts.


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