The NYC Board of Education is lifting it's cell phone ban for all students, which is great news if it happened ten years ago. Students have had their phones with them everyday, unless there's a metal detector at the door. In that case there's a van parked across the street from the school that stores the students phones for them everyday for a fee.
My children have carried their cell phones with them. After some natural and unnatural disasters that affected my family (9/11 cut off access to my home that day, flight 587 crashed a mile away from us, and Hurricane Sandy left us homeless for a while) I believed it was important to be able to get in touch with my children in an emergency, so I ignored the rule. They went to school with their phones, but were instructed not to take them out or use them.
The conversations I'm hearing now are how the children will be on their phones all day and not listen to the teacher, or that they'll record video in the classroom that will be a privacy violation of the teacher and other students. Guess what, that's already happening. What we need to do is not ignore reality, but embrace it and make it work to our advantage. Use the medium the students are permanently attached to and reach them where they are right now. We need to stop trying to maintain the classroom from 20 years ago. It's gone. We are constantly playing catch-up in the world that children live in today. It's hard to effectively teach when they know more than we do. Social media is not going away, it's taking over more and more of our lives, and that is not always a bad thing. They can be connected to their teachers all the time, not just 45 minutes each day. They can find other students interested in similar causes and make real change. Focus on the good of this situation, and make it work for you. That's a lesson that children can learn from us too.