Cell Phones in Schools: A Student's View

As a high school student reading articles about the benefits of modern school practices, I don't understand why my high school can't incorporate these practices into our system. These reforms won't cost extra money -- in fact, they might save some. Neither will they cause the teachers to have increased stress levels; rather, teachers will have the freedom to teach as they'd like. I'm not talking about cutting courses or reducing teachers. I'm talking about allowing the use of cell phones in school.

In their 40 years of existence, cell phones have become smaller, faster, and more intelligent. The cell phones we now have today are able to connect to the Internet/Cloud anywhere by WiFi, 3G, or 4G. They also contain multitudes of apps for anything we may need. Cell phones have become an integral part of daily life not only for kids, but also for their parents and other adults. If cell phones are so useful, then why are American schools rejecting them? Although the majority of American schools ban them, the small percent that don't are experiencing major success.

In the adult world, adults are frequently on their cell phones. It's the way they contact their friends; it's the way they schedule work. Cell phones are everything to adults. It's the same for the average American teenager. If they need to contact their friends, it allows them to do so. If they need to schedule something for work or school, they are able to contact the proper people. In our modern era, schools are continually trying to link the classroom to real-world situations, resources and technology. Isn't the cell phone an ideal tool for precisely this purpose?

Just how many schools ban cell phones? A national poll conducted by Benenson Strategy Group shows that 69% of high schools in the United States ban them. Within the schools that ban, 65% of students use cell phones anyway! That's nearly seven out of ten kids texting in high school, whether it is permitted or not. This alarming number tells you that students don't care about the rules; they just want to be allowed to use their cell phones. If American high schools were to embrace the use of cell phones, schools could both gain the students trust, and unlock many learning opportunities for the students and staff.

Yet there is a more alarming factor here as well. Another Benenson Strategy Group poll shows that about 35% of teenagers with cell phones have cheated with them at least once, and approximately 65% of students say that they know of people who cheat or have cheated using their cell phones. An equally alarming factor is that an average American teenager sends 440 texts a week, 110 of them being within school. If cell phones are being used that much right now, then schools are going to have a tough time banning them in the future, because phones will become even more technologically advanced.

So what about the success stories? Wiregrass Ranch High School in Tampa Bay allows students to use cell phones during the school day. Like other schools, they have rules and regulations, but they are just defined differently. Teachers find it amazing that students can find out the information they need in seconds, and they aren't forced to go to a computer for some extensive searches or the like. The staff also appreciates the time-saving aspect of the cell phone cameras. If the students are slow note takers, they can just capture a picture of the notes and review them later.

Schools have created uses for this new technology, such as a calculator, dictionary, camera, or Internet portal. Instead of the schools having to supply expensive graphing calculators for everyone, students can download graphing calculators to their phones. If the class were to go on a field trip, the teacher could assign the students to take pictures to share with the class. Also, great sources such as ChaCha, a "Texting Google," allow students without 3G or 4G on their phones to find out information without having to have computer access. Some additional uses would be to download foreign-language flash cards or digital textbooks, and being able to communicate better with absent students so they can get caught up faster.

What if a particular teacher doesn't like the idea of the use of cell phones in their class? There's an easy solution for this dilemma. They could place a bin next to the door of the room, and students would be able to grab their pre-registered cell phones from the bin or crate once the teacher is finished with his or her lesson. If there is a safety hazard with using cell phones, as would be in Shop Class or Chemistry, this technique would keep the students safe and the teachers from worrying.

Cell phones have been around almost 40 years, and yet most American high school students are not allowed the freedom and immediacy of using this valuable resource. That's because most schools have not grasped the fact that what we high school students are obsessing about could be a great educational resource – if only they would give cell phone technology a chance. It's free to try, and may open up new doors for education.

Joe Lisle is a sophomore from Cuba City High School in Wisconsin