The pros and cons of students being allowed to use personal devices in school

By: Abisola Dosunmu

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Should the use of interpersonal devices—like phones—-be allowed in schools? I feel like that’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another. Maybe not in that exact wording—but, well, you know what I mean.

In our modern world, life thrives on the use of digital technology.  We can use digital devices to communicate with our friends, family, literally anybody. There are around 7.753 billion people on this earth. With a few key types and a click of a button we can easily communicate with them. Maybe we’ve gotten desensitized to that, especially with the younger generation, but let me remind you, a hundred years ago, this would have been impossible to even think about. Now, it’s our reality. That’s pretty amazing.

So, what does ranting about the use of modern technology have to do with my topic? Well, cell phones have many uses besides the opportunity of being socially connected. They can be used for organization, note taking, access to educational apps, and new and unique learning opportunities tailored to each student’s needs. There’s really no one size fits all for everyone, especially when it comes to learning. 

Now, we have a whole labyrinth of information on the internet waiting to be discovered, with new takes on information and data from people all around the world. The ability to discover new perspectives and the opportunity to expand students’ minds and stray from the dusty old textbooks and worksheets.  Isn’t that what learning is about? Why not take advantage of that?

But, I also understand how cell phones can easily be misused in a learning environment. From distractions and cheating, to bullying, the use of cell phones can have a very negative impact on students’ daily lives. It all comes down to trust. When executed the right way, it can be a fresh and a helpful new way to develop new ways of learning.

I’m not saying I prefer this one way or another. Each point has its advantages and drawbacks. I mean, distance learning was done on devices. Some students thrived on it, some people didn’t. That’s fine. 

Instead of policing and trafficking use of all personal devices, recognize that some people can handle their devices responsibly and some genuinely need it (emergencies, to notify a guardian, personal problems, rescheduling something, etc.), while some people may have trouble focusing on learning with it.  That’s okay, because everyone learns differently and has different challenges. 

How can we achieve that? Well, there’s really no fair way to make it a rule one way or another. Despite what I just wrote, you can’t really allow one student to be on their phone and ban the other student from using it. What you can do is teach students to be responsible with their personal devices, to be respectful when using it, to be responsible with sharing content, and realizing when it’s time to put it away.  I know it might not seem like it, but it’s just another life lesson you need to teach in school.

So, what do you think? Should we encourage personal digital devices in school settings or completely veer away from it?

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