Do cellular telephones enhance or impede the learning process at school?

Posted by Ronald | November 2, 2015  |  No Comment

Security at U.S. airports has tightened significantly in an effort to ensure safety of passengers on planes since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Passengers have repeatedly complained, however, about the level of security measures taken to search them such as “full-body scans” and “pat-downs” before boarding. Some protesters have vented their frustration about the “overly aggressive searches” and advocated passengers to either “opt-out” from flying or go with the “pat-downs” in public rather than in private in order for the community to see how these searches are done.

With the increased use of cellular telephones, U.S. schools have tried to enforce rules for the appropriate times these electronic devices and others could be used in the educational environment. Most schools’ policies do not allow students to use cell phones and other electronic devices during the instructional day or instructional class periods. Parents, on the other hand, have complained repeatedly about the importance of children being able to use their cell phones in school especially since the 911 terrorist attacks, the Columbine High School shooting and other tragic school and community incidents that have occurred over the past 10 years. Parents want to be able to contact their children during times of emergencies and for personal matters. Schools, on the other hand, want to be able to teach their students without constant interruptions during the instructional day.

While the traditional process of banning cell phones and having students to come to the school’s main office to use the phone may be outdated, the critical questions to be asked for this millennium are: Do cell telephones enhance or impede the learning process at school? Is there a place for cell phones within the learning environment? According to the National Forum of Educational, Administration and Supervision Journal, cell phones and digital cameras can enhance instruction or be a viable learning tool for schools that have little or no internet access in the classrooms. They can serve as mobile computers or devices for these schools since many students own and bring these devises to school.

This is supported by a high school in Florida where a teacher allows her students to use their cell phones as a mobile computer to enhance instruction in completing class assignments. Other schools in states such as Texas and Maryland have placed their entire lessons on the Internet for students to access the lessons via cell phones and other electronic devices. In North Carolina, cell phones or smartphones with advanced mobile broadband technologies have been used to enhance the mathematics deficiencies of 9th grade students through the Project K-Net, a one million dollar grant funded program by Qualcomm. The program has reported higher student engagement, increased parental involvement and support in these schools according to the North Carolina State Board of Education.

As an instructional aid, cellular telephones can be used in schools to write notes, record assignments, take notes, share notes with students, poll students and access assignments in text, visual or audio formats. They can enhance the learning process because educators have discovered that students are more engaged by the integration of technology in the curriculum than textbook assignments and teacher lectures. Moreover, cell phones can be used as an instructional tool for constructing knowledge as noted in an article in the Learning and Leading with Technology Journal. Specifically, the article cited that students have the capabilities of using their cell phones to create blogs, collect and store data and develop multimedia projects with an audio input features provided by, and

On the other hand, cell phones and other electronic devices can impede learning at schools when students do not use them according to school policy. Proponents complain about students using their cell phones to cheat on tests, send voice messages, read text messages, post photos and video images of students and cyber bullying (i.e. sending or posting crude and harmful texts and images of students from their cell phones). The old method of students spreading rumors, calling students out of their names or instigating a fight by face-to-face is less pervasive in today’s society due to the technological advancement of cell phones and social media. Schools are forced to address these negative uses of media in order to maintain a safe learning environment and avoid legal ramifications.

Just as the Transportation Security Administration is faced with the challenge of having a strong policy to ensure safety on the airplanes, the school system is faced with the challenge of having a strong policy for the use of cell phones and other electronic devices during the instructional day. In both scenarios, the goal is to promote a safe and amiable environment for traveling on the plane and learning in the classroom. Realizing policies are sometimes implemented based on societal occurrences, catastrophes and public outcries, the old adage states that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. We just have to make sure that the right wheel gets the oil when ensuring that our airports and schools are amiable and safe.

Thus, when trying to determine whether or not cell phones enhance or impede the learning process at school, educational leaders should be mindful of how students learn, communicate and solve problems in our current information age.  We live in a technological age where the norm is that most people have a cell phone, including children.  The adage that says, if you can’t beat them, then join them applies to the use of cell phones in schools.  Our school leaders and teachers should look for innovative ways to use cell phones as a teaching and learning tool in the classroom rather than focusing on taking them out of the schools.

Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of 10 books, “How to Eradicate Bullying“Education Questions to be Answered,”Current Issues and Answers in Education,” “How to Eradicate Hazing,”Professional Career Paths,” “Your Answers to Education Questions,” “How to revitalize the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.” “Completing the Dissertation: Tips, techniques and real-life experiences from Ph.D. graduates.” “Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Careers for Children” and Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Animals in Africa. He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper.  Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected]






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