Critical Essay. Having Cell Phones in Elementary School

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Critical Essay: Having Cell Phones in Elementary School

Today’s new generation is referred to as the iGeneration because of such

technologies as the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, and so forth (Rosen 8). As recently as the past

decade, schools have had to determine their stance on students with personal electronics

in the school, from the use of storage devices such as the flash drive, to the use of iPods

for listening to music and podcasts, to the use of cell phones. Many schools quickly

developed policies against the use of any personal electronic devices. The policies were

aimed mostly at the high school level but trickled down to the lower grades. Very

recently, though, educators have come to realize that student use of personal electronics

may alleviate the stress of not having available enough computers, tablets, and other

electrons in a timely, readily accessible manner for individual student use. They also have

come to realize that banning cell phones in school may be too difficult to enforce. Parents

want immediate access to their children, for example. However, addressing cell phones in

high school, or even junior high school, is somewhat different than addressing it for

elementary-aged students.

A major concern for children’s use of cell phones centers on the issue of

electronic bullying. Students on all grade levels encounter bullying, whether they are

witnesses to it, are victims of it, or are perpetuators of it. What makes electronic bullying

even more of a concern is that children do not always know the identity of the

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perpetrator, whether it is a single person or a group of people, and if the child knows the

person (Kowalski & Limber 22). Because electronic bullying can be easily transmitted to

others, the potential audience for electronic bullying is limitless. Schools are left to

develop policies and procedures for dealing with electronic bullying, which includes

educating their students, teachers, and parents regarding electronic bullying. Part of the

debate on whether to allow student-owned cell phones into the elementary school, then, is

the issue of student protection against electronic bullying and also issues of whether

students will abuse the access to their cell phones with inappropriate text-messaging and

gaming, for example.

On the other side of the coin, however, is looking at how often children use cell

phones and for what purpose. Rosen found in his study that parents report that their

elementary school-aged children are utilizing technology at a much younger age than

their older brothers and sisters did (10). They are growing up in an environment where

technology is ubiquitous in all areas of their lives. They have information and the means

to learn at their fingertips. Five to eight year olds communicate electronically half an

hour daily. Nine to twelve year olds communicate electronically 2.5 hours a day. Half of

pre-teens have personal cell phones and iPads (Rosen 10). Rosen argues that educators

might consider using various electronic devices for a means of delivering virtual content,

having online class discussions, and having students to complete and submit assignments

online.

Rosen’s idea that educators utilize students’ personally owned technology in the

classroom brings one to the consideration of what today’s students should be learning in

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preparation for their future. Too often, our students are leaving school unprepared for the

existing job market. They lack skills in critical thinking, communication, and

collaboration. Skills needed for 21

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century living are different than what was needed for

20

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century living. Our schools must shift from the mind-set of preparing students for the

Industrial Age to preparing them for the 21

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century. Heavy emphasis is on collaboration

and communication skills. Among tools needed to support students in developing skills

for 21

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century learning and living include access to the Internet, educational games, and

cell phones (Trilling 8).

Trilling argues that since technology has become an important part of children’s

lives, they should bring their technology from home rather than compete for limited

technology at school (8). Indeed, that is exactly what is happening in many schools. They

are slowly beginning to realize that students have the availability to direct their own

learning through the use of electronic devices. Students use electronic devices for

accessing factual information, delving deeper into areas of interest, playing games to

develop skills and concepts, for communication, and for collaborative learning. Cell

phones, especially smart phones, provide students with immediate access to tools and

information that help them in their academic endeavors. Concerns like electronic bullying

are valid, as are concerns for any kind of bullying. Students must be taught ethical

practices in anything they do and use, but they must also be allowed to use tools at their

disposal to help them to achieve or to attain goals, such as in learning.