Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cell Phones in the Classroom - What Do You Do?

I've always been fairly tolerant of cell phones in my classroom, as long as they aren't a distraction to other students. Since my students are paying to be there, I figure it's their money wasted if they don't pay attention. Lately, though, the level of rudeness and distraction has been unreal. I've had students answer the phone in class, text while I am talking directly to them, or cheating on tests with them. (During a vocabulary test, I had a student with on his phone....) I'm rethinking my policy.

I'd like to do what this woman does in the video. I'm sure that ended the phone problem in her classroom, but I don't have the guts or a tile floor to accomplish this task. Plus, I don't want to banish cell phones entirely, because students do use them to take pictures of notes on the board or record certain parts of my lectures. I check my own phone on every break for text messages from absent students, and often use the calendar or calculator function during class, so I appreciate that they can be useful.

I am, however, going to banish them during certain times in the class period. Here are a couple of ideas I'm mulling over. If you have any good ideas, please send them my way. A new quarter starts in October, and I want to have my policy in hand.

1. Basket drop. One teacher at my school has a basket at the front of the classroom where students drop their phones at the beginning of class, then they can pick them up and use them on breaks.

2. My online teacher acquaintance Scipi is using the "Sock it Away" method. She describes it on her blog post here. This seems like a great idea because it seems effective, but also uses a little humor.

3. One of my college professors told us that if he saw or heard a cell phone in his class, we would be asked to leave. I could modify this to lecture or presentation times, because as I said earlier, if they waste their own work time, that's their problem, not mine.

Any other ideas? Post them here. I'm all ears!


  1. I teach 7th and 8th grade. I have a clear shoe organizer that I hung on my closet door and labeled the "Phone Prison". Kids have the option of powering down their phones and hiding them in their backpacks or putting them in the phone prison. If I catch a phone on or out, then it goes to the office and they have to pay a fine. The phone prison is behind my desk. My students like putting it there because they can see their phones hanging. They also think it is funny that it is a prison. The organizer helps keep the phones from getting scratched and stuff like it would in a basket. Hope this works for you.

  2. I love this idea of a phone prison! Ha ha. I teach grade eight as well. I have a mobile device contract that I send home and have the parents and students sign. They can not use their device until it is signed by their parents. After that the devices are only to be used when it is useful to their learning. I could send you a copy if you want. There are consequences too but that is too long to post about here.

  3. These are great ideas! Thanks! I cant involve parents because at the moment all my students are over 18, but I'll definitely be doing that in the future.

    Today one of my students answered her phone and walked out of the room during a midterm. Sigh. So hard to understand the thought process.

  4. I'm definitely with you on allowing a mature level of cell phone use in the classroom, but my kids also haven't realized that the age of technology requires the etiquette of technology as well. I tried the Basket Drop thing, but unfortunately the culture at my school is such that that's not a safe place for students' phones and none of them were willing to put them in a public place. Now I've made it an optional Cell Phone Parking Lot (sounds kinda like the Phone Prison) that I keep behind my desk until class is over and I hand each phone back individually. If I have to warn a student off his/her cell phone more than once in a class period, he/she loses the behavior/participation stamp for the day. Obviously you'd have to modify the consequences, but it's really helping me demonstrate the difference in proper and improper ways to use a cell phone, since I don't give them a warning unless the phone use is clearly inappropriate.

    Thanks SO MUCH for all of your thoughts and resources! I just found you through TPT and am so glad I did :)

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  6. nice I tried the Basket Drop thing, but unfortunately the culture at my school is such that that's not a safe place for students' phones and none of them were willing to put them in a public place.