“I want to smash their phones.”

This is the number one complaint I hear about middle and high school students with phones.   It often gets directed to me.

“I know you wanted students to have phones, but…”

I’m a big fan of BYOD*–Bring Your Own Device–for a number of reasons.

  1. Who doesn’t like their own phone, computer or tablet?  Studies show people are more productive when given a device they favor.
  2. I don’t have access to computers in my classroom–I have a few student stations but not enough for a class of 25 or 30.  Enter–phones.  Between student phones and my five computers, I can piece together research groups that work.
  3. The device they have–even the old ones–are more powerful than my first 10GB computer.
  4. The way we use technology is changing–students default to mobile, not desktops.  Some apps are skipping desktop development altogether and going mobile first.
  5. Studies show computer labs and shared carts are NOT the way to go.  Today’s student expects tech to be seamless and instant, “Great question, let’s take five minutes to research a solution to that case study.”  Going to the lab uses instructional time for transition and wastes time while the class settles into a new environment.  Having to compete for carts causes teachers stress–someone always gets left out in the cold.
  6. Students are used to using their phones.  They’re more efficient.
  7. I don’t have to fix stuff.  I spend a lot of time troubleshooting the class computers.  Every student can fix his or her own phone or tablet.
  8. They’re free for schools.  If a certain percent has their own tech, that’s less stuff the school has to worry about.

“They’re always on their phones,” one teacher said.  “I want to smash them.”

Phones shouldn’t be a source of frustration.  For me, they’re a thing of joy.  Not only can kids save entire rainforests not passing notes in my class, I feel happy I don’t have to challenge a science teacher to a duel for computer lab time.

And every boss in the world should be glad about the cost savings.  I’ll never order a textbook again.

Education has changed rapidly because of phones in the classroom.  Teaching Millennials and Generation Z is not the same as class was “in my day.”  It’s more like entertainment with a healthy dose of teaching phone etiquette and digital responsibility every day.

  1. Some places aren’t phone friendly.  My mom, at dinner?  Nope.  Tweeting out things we learned at a conference or working on a lab together on Google Docs.  Yes. 
  2. To everything there is a season.  If a kid walks in early, texting. Yes.  In the middle of my lesson, no.
  3. When in doubt, leave it out.  If it’s not safe for the New York Times, I don’t want it in my classroom.  That includes any social media, messages, content, or… anything, really.  Digital stuff follows us FOREVER.   I teach that a lot.  I’ve seen the real-world consequences of this.  I share those stories.

A Great Solution: Use “Temptation Mode”

“You won’t need your phones for this activity.  Put them in temptation mode,”  I say.  Every phone comes with a little-known feature called temptation mode.  It’s this:

Phones out.  On desk.  Flipped upside down.  

Simple.  No one can see their notifiers, and no one’s playing Clash Royale under the desk.

“What’s the penalty for not being in temptation mode?”

I have a basket on my desk students can use if they want.  They do this voluntarily to train themselves.  I treat repeated violations the same as if a student struggled with any other classroom expectation.

I don’t want phones to  become “management.”  Tech is merely a tool–like a pencil, or an encyclopedia with every answer in the world right there.  Teaching students balance is a real-world lesson, as they’ll have to do their work at their real job–even with a phone in their pocket.

Issue the Warnings

Set strong expectations for anything technology related in your class.  Start with the spirit of “yes.”  “I expect you to use this for our class, learning, and research.”   Nearly everything on a phone can be used for learning–I don’t say “no Snapchat,” for example.  I snap education moments and share out classroom things or assignments.

The sky’s the limit with BYOD, and if you set it up right, you’ll be amazed at the tools available to your class, and the level of engagement you can achieve.

Before long, you may not feel frustrated with phones–you’ll be glad you don’t have to go to the copy machine as often, that you don’t need a new textbook, and you can design higher-level assignments for students using the tools they love best.


*not to be confused with BYOB

[photo credit: pfsk.com]