Smart Phones? Smarter Classrooms?

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session MERLOT

Watch This Session

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

A great debate brews: Should teachers allow smartphones in the classroom or not? Do smartphones distract from lessons or can they be incorporated into the curriculum to serve as tools supporting learning? Presenters and attendees will debate the use of smartphones in the classroom, discuss policies and solutions.  Join us!



Jane Moore is the Director of MERLOT Editorial and Professional Development Services. She also serves as Editor for MERLOT's Teacher Education Board. Jane has taught online since 2002, and after 27 years in the elementary classroom and 16 years in higher education full time, has embraced online learning with a great deal of enthusiasm.
Dr. Cris Guenter, Professor of Education at California State University, Chico She specializes in teaching that focuses on arts education, computer graphics, and technology in education. Her research interests include technology's intersection with the arts, authentic assessment, and online instruction. She teaches credential and graduate level courses in the arts, technology, and curriculum development. In 2008 she was recognized as the National Art Educator of the Year. Cris has experience in giving engaging keynote presentations for K-university educators at the state and national levels. She has been involved with MERLOT since its inception in 1999.
Angela Gunder serves as Director of Instructional Design and Curriculum Development for the Office of Digital Learning at The University of Arizona. Angela came into instructional design rather circuitously, helming large-scale site designs as webmaster for The City College of New York, the honors college at ASU, and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).  Her over fifteen year career as a designer for higher education informs her instructional design practice, where she leverages her expertise in usability, visual communication, programming, and standards-based online learning. Angela holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Fine Art from Fordham University, and a M.Ed. in Education Technology from Arizona State University.  Prior to her position at UA, she was a member of NOVA’s instructional design team, supporting over 23,000 students in 550 unique courses.   Angela is an Associate Editor for the Teacher Education Board of MERLOT, and a Quality Matters certified peer reviewer and online facilitator.  Her research interests include technology for second language acquisition, open educational resources, and emerging technology to promote digital literacy. A voracious culinary nerd, Angela spends her free time composing, cooking and photographing original recipes for her food blog.

Additional Authors

Dr. Esperanza Zenon is an Associate Professor of Physical Science at River Parishes Community College (RPCC). She is the current Division Coordinator for Math and Natural Sciences at RPCC. She serves as the Chair of the RPCC EESTEM II Grant Project Committee, which engages in action research aimed at improving teaching and learning in RPCC’s STEM and Technical classes. She is also a member of the RPCC Online Course Review Committee, which establishes standards and practices for all online classes at RPCC. Dr. Zenon is very passionate about STEM equity and serves on the Executive, Membership, and Strategic Planning Committees for the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE), a consortium of state and local agencies, corporations, and national organizations which work to build educators’ capacity to implement effective solutions for increasing student access, educational equity, and workforce diversity. She is also involved with several organizations that work to make education more affordable for students through the utilization of Open Education Resources (OER), to include the Open Textbook Network (OTN), the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) OpenStax Partnership, and MERLOT. Dr. Zenon has a Master of Arts degree in Physics from Wayne State University, and a Ph.D. in Science/Mathematics Education from Southern University.

Extended Abstract

A great debate brews: Should teachers allow smartphones in the classroom or not? Do smartphones distract from lessons or can they be incorporated into the curriculum to serve as tools supporting learning? Presenters and attendees will debate the use of smartphones in the classroom, discuss policies and solutions.  


Our editorial board targeted this topic after one member read and shared Burkholder’s (2017) article about cell phone usage in the classroom. Smartphones are ubiquitous.  Barnwell (2016) notes that it is rare for a student to come to class without a smartphone (para. 4).  Some students manage to complete an entire online course using their phones for access.  As teacher educators, we pondered what we should tell our teacher education candidates about the use of smartphones in the classroom. Should we model it?  Should we have students check in their phones as they enter the classroom?  Should we have days where smartphones are forbidden?  Should we integrate smartphones into the curriculum? Should we include a smartphone policy in the syllabus?


We began to collect articles and actual classroom events about smartphone usage in the classroom from our own experiences.  We curated a website with links to our research, which we will share with attendees and ask them to contribute to the site.


The objectives for the presentation are:

  1. Participants will be able to identify key issues in the use of smartphones in the classroom.

  2. Participants will actively engage in small group discussions/debates about the use the smartphones in the classroom.

  3. Participants will receive a link to a curated MERLOT website containing articles and resources regarding smartphones in the classroom and a chart of best practices that the presenters have compiled.


The structure of the session would include:

  • 15 minutes of sharing information that we have developed on the topic of smartphones in the classroom

  • 25 minutes of small group debates/discussions with both in-person and virtual groups (Virtual discussion leaders will use online meeting software to facilitate small groups for virtual attendees.)

  • 5 minutes of closure to recap the group discussions


The presentation will include positive ways to use smartphones in the classroom; the drawbacks of smartphone usage, taken from our experiences and the online articles we have curated; a few “ugly” stories about our own experiences with smartphones in the classroom; and some best practices we have discovered.  The second half of the session will be small discussion groups debating smartphone usage, sharing stories, and compiling ideas to be posted on our website.


Barnwell, P. (2016, April 27). Do smartphones have a place in the classroom? The Atlantic.  Retrieved from


Burkholder, P. (2017, September 11).   Helping students make the right call on cell phones. Faculty Focus.  Retrieved from r