Autonomy & Cell Phones In Class

My scope of experience with kids and phones doesn’t extend past 5th graders. There’s only one real incident I can even recall where a student kept visiting her backpack to check out her phone, which was resolved without much fuss.

But the question of whether teachers should make sweeping bans of devices from their classrooms is highly relevant to teachers everywhere because it speaks to our efforts toward fostering greater student ownership and autonomy over their learning.  At the same time, we do know that app-makers design apps to be as enticing as possible, to which kids are even more likely to fall prey to distraction and time-wasting.

In fact, an educator in this KQED MindShift article compared it to candy: “Don’t give kids unlimited access to “Halloween candy and Christmas cookies while they are still learning to eat a balanced diet.””

For whatever reason, this reminded me of a couple of plates that my dietitian mother-in-law gave to my kids:

I’ve liked these just because it’s easier to pour applesauce and yogurt into the portions. But to my surprise, they’ve also caused my kids started initiating conversations about food groups, portions, and intake balance. We also noticed together the absence of candy and treats as a food group, and have discussed the importance of moderation there, too.

The MindShift article also quoted educators who emphasize the importance of making cell phone use and distraction a direct conversation. Surely, just as there is value in letting kids in on the big picture of dietary balance, there is value in letting kids in on the big picture of balanced cell phone use.

Of course, that does not equate to an automatic green-light on all devices at all times. In fact, having an open conversation is a great way to invite student input on troubleshooting. Questions/discussion points you might ask might include:

  • How can devices enhance our learning?
  • How might devices enhance feedback within our classroom? With learners across the globe?
  • How might devices cause a distraction for ourselves? How might they distract our peers?
  • What does balanced device use look like?
  • What are the possible dangers of unbalanced device use?
  • What strategies or guidelines might minimize distraction while maximizing learning in our classroom?

However we choose to manage the issue, inviting our students to take a more proactive role can help not only mitigate the management issues but empower our students for more longterm ownership over their own device use.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

2 Replies to “Autonomy & Cell Phones In Class”

  1. Thanks for a thoughtful post on this subject Mary. My niece is learning to balance her cell phone use right now. She is eleven and is finding the phone so compelling that she is lying to her mom about when and if she was on it.

    My sister is trying to figure out how to help her to navigate this. Your solution of using challenge as an opening to dialogue and letting kids in on the big picture is just what I advised my sister to do.

    Although sometimes I find it useful to have someone else help me put limits on the things I find too compelling (i.e., hide the candy when I am around) I never like someone else to impose those limitations on me without my knowledge and consent.

    The students in our classrooms need to be part of the conversation about devices and applications that are distinctly designed to harness their attention and how we can both use technology and develop new immune systems for technological threats to our well-being.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Melissa! It’s certainly not a simple task, but if we want our kids to cultivate the long-term self-management we’re hoping for, we need to leverage the learning opportunity through ongoing dialogue. Good luck to your sister and niece!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *