Shining Just the Right Light on Cell Phones

Tyler Eversole, Staff Columnist

photo by Signature Studio            Tyler Eversole, Staff Columnist

The cell phone descended to Earth in the late 20th century. At the time, its introduction to society was of outstanding insignificance; its light was far too modest. Yet, the young invention underwent massive evolution, and today, more than 60 percent of the world population owns a mobile phone.

People can now use them for more than just calling and texting, with smartphones able to be a calculator, camera, computer, game, and so much more. As phones continue to shine more and more in our daily lives, will they remain pleasant or becoming incessantly blinding?

With such a question remaining uncertain, there has been caution in allowing children to use cell phones in schools, particularly in middle and high schools; however, not allowing children to use something so conducive to learning would be quite an uneducated verdict.

Now, don’t misunderstand. Cell phones are not some magical angel that grants the user indomitable intelligence. Like any tool, it has its functions, and it’s ultimately up to the user to decide how to properly utilize them. While a phone certainly could help foster learning through its various uses, it is also a possible source of distraction, which is where a lot of concern comes from. 

Cell phones can become extraordinary tools to help students reach their academic potential. They could even help teachers plan and execute lessons more efficiently. ”

Eric Dolan cites work by Professor Ian M. McDonough, who helped perform a study on the effect on people’s scores when they have a cell phone in their pocket. McDonough stated, “Having mobile technology in the classroom has multiple and independent negative effects on learning. The mere presence of a cell phone can be distracting for both the cell phone user and students sitting around the cell phone user, not to mention the obvious distraction if someone gets a text or phone call.”  This raises concern, but the benefits of allowing phones far outweigh the potential negatives.

There are innumerable cases where students use their phones responsibly, helping them succeed in their schoolwork. Dominique Russell reports that one study concludes, “The research shows that students rely mostly on their devices to keep them organized. The calendar, alarms, and camera are features constantly used by students, the report notes. One pupil said his device was essential for ‘remembering things’ and without it he would ‘forget to take homework in a lot.’”

Additionally, Mr. Jay Cobb, a history teacher at Trinity High School and a former assistant principal in Texas, said, “We do use (phones) in here for them to look up things from time to time, to find a stat, or find something to back up what we are talking about.” This suggests phones can prove beneficial in the classroom for students and even teachers.

As for how to handle problems with phone use, Trinity senior Harrison Snyder, provided insight: “It would start with the parents because they’re the ones with the most contact at home, and 99 percent of the time, the parents bought the kid the phone. They have the right legally and morally to take it away if they want to.”

Cobb enforced this type of parent intervention by explaining that at his previous school they had a “three-strike rule,” which stated that if a student’s phone was taken away three times, the student’s phone would be confiscated and parents would be informed of the situation.

Cobb said the only way for students to get their phones back was to have a parent come and pick it up for them. In his experience, this system worked well because “usually, if you got them on the second one, students wanted to make sure the third one didn’t come about because they’d lose that cell phone privilege for the rest of the semester.”

All in all, while the presence of phones in classrooms can invite trouble, it seems that the positives far outweigh the potential negatives. Through strong parent and faculty cooperation, many misuses of cell phones can be curbed. Cell phones can become extraordinary tools to help students reach their academic potential. They could even help teachers plan and execute lessons more efficiently. Cell phones may have brought great change to educational institutions, but not all change is inherently bad. With the assimilation of phones into schools, everyone has something to gain.

To block some light, we put on shades, but we don’t dare try to block it all out. Such rashness would be unfortunate. An effective use of cell phones needs only shades of intelligent regulation.