Should Teachers Have Cell Phones in the Classroom?
The June 2013 issue of Teaching Young Children (TYC) features a Q&A about teachers and cell phones. NAEYC Author Holly Elissa Bruno (What You Need to Lead an Early Childhood Program: Emotional Intelligence in Practice) also adds her thoughts about teachers using their personal cell phones in the classroom. What are your thoughts on teachers having cell phones in the classroom? Does your program have a policy on personal cell phone use?
Q: Dear Director Danni,
My coworkers and I often use our smartphones as resource tools. Although our program policy requires teachers to leave their smartphones in the staff room, I think we’re missing out. We could use the phones to capture the children in action, play new songs, email photos of children to their families, and more. How can we work with our director to make smartphones a tool in the classroom?
A: Dear Inquiring Teacher,
I agree that smartphone technology is wonderful! In the classroom, you can use it to document class projects and children’s developmental milestones; deliver literature, music, and other content in new ways; and communicate quickly with families—both with words and images. And, of course it lets you keep in constant touch with friends!
Oh, wait. That last one is the problem, isn’t it?
People are used to texting, posting, and calling at all times. Sometimes they can’t resist the temptation to do it while at work. I’ll bet you know at least one colleague with this problem. Such minor but frequent distractions are harmful to a safe and productive classroom environment. It’s also hard to monitor. Frustrated directors have responded with blanket prohibitions on personal phones in the classroom.
Here’s another problem: It is not appropriate for teachers to use their personal smartphones to record children in the classroom. There are confidentiality issues related to pictures, video clips, and emails on personal devices. For example, you might accidentally share a child’s photo on a social networking site that would probably make families uncomfortable - and should concern you, too.
Besides, I think programs—not individual staff—should carry the cost of all equipment used for teaching and learning. If smartphone technology brings good tools to the classroom, then the program needs to invest in those tools. Ask your director if the program can purchase tablets for each classroom. They have the same functionality as smartphones (except for the phoning) and can be setup to support communications from the program’s email address. Tablet prices are coming down rapidly. Even if your director looked at this option a few months ago, have him or her look again.
What are your thoughts on teachers having cell phones in the classroom? Does your program have a policy on personal cell phone use?