Posted by: crudbasher | February 24, 2012

How Do You Deal With Smartphone Abuse In The Classroom?

Integrity – adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. (

Integrity – what you do when nobody else is watching. (me) 

(cc) dbostrom

James C. posted a great comment on my post from a few days ago titles Future Uses Of Smartphones In The Classroom. Here is his comment and then I have some thoughts.

The biggest barrier to using smart phones in the classroom is not that the students don’t have them yet, they do and they know how to use them, it’s that the technology is so uncontrollable. My school board has decided the negative issues that smartphones bring in to the classroom such as cyber-bullying and distraction outweigh the pedagogical advantages of them and they have implemented an across-the-board ban.

He’s brought up a very valid point and I think there are several ways to handle this.

1. We can ban it. While this addresses the actual issue what happens then? There have been studies done that show that prolonged Internet use causes withdrawal symptoms when shut off. Is it likely that a class full of jonesing children is going to learn anything?

Phones are being embraced in practically every other area of society. Won’t banning them in schools just make schools more out of touch with the outside world? Will students think school is more or less relevant to their lives?

2. We can use technology to monitor what they are doing. I see this as a better solution in the short term. It is certainly possible right now to make a piece of software that monitors what the student is doing on their phones. It would watch for patterns out of the norm and then notify the parents or teachers. For example, during certain hours of the day (in class) it will flag excessive Facebooking and texting. I don’t believe in cutting off students from Internet resources, but I do believe in holding them accountable for their choices. Right now school block certain sites from their Wifi, but smartphones can just connect to the regular cell network and go right around the block. I think accountability is a better solution than blocking them.

3. Teach them better usage habits. This is still new technology. Teachers aren’t sure how to deal with this yet and students don’t know how to use phones for learning. What if they had to use their phones to do their work? If this idea is introduced at an early age, perhaps it won’t even be an issue later in school?

I am a big believer in personal responsibility. Unfortunately, I see a eroding of that concept in the US. It seems it’s cool, or even noble to be a victim. This sort of mentality is coming over into the classroom where more and more students are tuning out. Perhaps they feel something is owed to them? The Occupy Wall Street movement is a perfect example of that. The students protesting there were told if they went to college (and went into stupendous debt) they would have jobs when they came out. They didn’t. Of course it never worked that way, you still have to work for it but somehow they feel they are entitled to it. The danger here is that if you think you are entitled to something, and don’t think you can have it, you are more inclined to let government take it for you from somebody else.

I’m an optimist. I think over time, society will adapt to this new technology. Teachers who are using smartphones and computers in the classroom today are blazing a new path and providing an example of how it can be done. Let’s learn from them and together we can figure this out!

Does anyone want to share some personal success stories of technology in the classroom?


  1. I find this conversation interesting. I see kids carrying powerful computers and cameras in their pockets even in poor schools. Unlimited access to knowledge, but people can’t figure out how to harness it.

    • I agree Dan and the spread of even more powerful pocket computers is going to be disruptive to standardized schooling.

  2. I am interested in the date and origin of the photo. The Flickr url says 1975, but it looks older to me. What is the device the kids are using?

  3. Hi Crudbasher,

    Thanks for the detailed reply. It deserves an equally detailed response to continue this interesting discussion, which I will do sometime.

    For now, I think we can both agree that what works for one group of students in one environment, will not necessarily work for another group in another environment. I have spent the last few weeks working with adolescents in a public school setting, and that certainly affects and perhaps biases my viewpoint on the use of smart phones in the classroom and school setting. Likewise, I think of my experience teaching ESL overseas, where a student being able to type a few words or phrases into their smart phone and translate saved them a lot of grief, and kept them on task for learning.

    • Hi James, thank you for the original comment that sparked this chain of thought. 🙂 I agree that one size doesn’t fit all. The problem with a school system that is standardized is they won’t accept innovations that can’t be used everywhere. A interactive whiteboard doesn’t change the teacher’s job so it can be dropped into the classroom.

      This inflexibility will eventually lead to the end of standardized schooling I believe.

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