Response: Jamie Gregory

Should Phones Be Banned in Schools? Learn more about the article and prompt.

Jamie is a Librarian and a Journalism/Newspaper Teacher.

I enjoyed contemplating Jonathan Haidt’s construct of a mythical education world absent cell phones (and really, all other electronic devices). I was particularly interested in his idea that there was ever a time in the past when students felt more like they belonged at school, learned well, and made friends simply because there were no cell phones (plenty of students were bullied, ostracized, and disengaged when I was in high school during the late 1990s). While I believe the research he presents and agree both as an educator and as a parent on many counts, I also believe my practical experience as a high school educator for the past 18 years and being a mother for the past 21 years.

It simply doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and we can in fact make a compromise work because I’ve seen it happen. Part of the key is to ensure that technology enhances learning more so than without it. For example, in my journalism class, my students have become impressively good fact checkers because they have grown up with certain digital skills which I am able to teach them to hone. 

They are a generation bombarded by media of different types than I was (born in 1981), so to ignore that as an educator would be, quite simply, ineffective. Students still need learning experiences requiring them to explore their relationships to media as young people, consumers, citizens, athletes, artists, and more. They are all media creators themselves whether they realize it or not, necessitating lessons about the ethics of media messaging.

The classroom should be viewed as a learning laboratory, and to agree with Haidt’s arguments entirely is to ignore the fact that the current generation has been raised with different experiences related to technology which has created a different mindset. For example, my students instinctively use technology to verify information during class without prompting. To abandon technology completely is to rob students of effective learning experiences, like Skyping with classrooms around the world; creating an open-sourced science experiment; analyzing primary sources shared online from the war in Ukraine. Students must be taught by credentialed school librarians how to find credible information online in lieu of print encyclopedias or whatever else would be the alternative in Haidt’s construct.

I think the crux of this debate is having educators and parents who have rules and enforce them. My younger son is in high school and while he has a smartphone, he does not have social media apps. I have utilized a cell phone holder for my students to place their phones in during class. I ask that they close their laptops when they aren’t needed. Those have worked for me because I follow through with enforcement. 

Today’s young people don’t know a world without technology. So to imagine a solution without any technology risks education feeling even more remote, irrelevant, and inaccessible to students. Rather, teachers and parents should embrace the responsibility and the challenges of teaching young people how to be media literate, most effectively by becoming media literate themselves.

Should Phones Be Banned in Schools? Read more responses.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of these responses are to highlight our members and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.