November 30, 2022

Personal cell phones are not educational tools (Opinion)

For the editor:

While I understand that cell phones present a formidable challenge in the classroom, I have been troubled as a parent and educator by the message of the occasional normalization of cell phones for education (“Cellphones in Schools: A Huge Nuisance and Powerful Teaching Toolfrom the special report “Emerging Teaching and Learning Strategies», March 23, 2022).

Unless cell phones are distributed by school districts as educational devices, I believe they have no place in education. First, not all children have access to a cell phone (my own school-age child does), and the presumption of cell phone accessibility is unfair at best. Second, cell phones are personal devices that do not come with the same privacy and content safeguards as devices distributed by schools. This means that whenever a minor child uses a mobile phone during school hours, the tracking of internet usage and content is potentially unregulated.

Moreover, the attitude conveyed in a teacher’s comment that “You need to teach kids to manage their technology, and if we don’t do that in school, where is that going to be?” assumes that parents and families are unable or unwilling to teach their children how to use technology in healthy and effective ways. Educators who communicate paternalistic attitudes run the risk of alienating families who might otherwise be partners in raising children.

Our district distributed 1:1 devices. If the technology is needed, it should be designed to complement the materials distributed to the school. If we are truly seeking to create equitable community schools, we must first ensure that all students have access to what they need to succeed. This belief is based on an equalization of accessibility and resources that cannot be achieved when teachers use personal devices as teaching tools.

Julianna Lopez Kershen
Norman, Okla.