social networking via cell phone in high school libraries

Student cell phone use in school is on my mind, specifically with regards to low-income urban students. Yes, they have smartphones, and yes they are on and in use at school. Since many urban public schools do not have enough computers, why not allow and teach students to use their cell phones to search online catalogs and databases at school? Instead of banning social networking during school hours, why not explicitly teach students how to build up the discipline and focus they need to get their academic work done despite the ever-present allure of the texting, tweeting, facebooking world? This is what adults are required to learn.

My ideas about encouraging responsible cell phone use in school are supported by recent data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which finds that teens whose families are in the lowest income category (earning less than $30,000 a year) are the least likely to have a computer to use at home, so the teens go online through their cell phone. The Pew report also finds that teens with black or Hispanic parents are significantly more likely than teens with white parents to use their cell phone to go online. Many of my students in the Boston Public Schools fit this demographic profile.

If students are accustomed to going online at home with their phones, why not continue at school? If I used my Sidekick at home for internet access, did my homework on it, and had all the software, bookmarks, and apps I needed for school in my hand, it would be infuriating to be told not to use my phone at school to get the information I need, especially if a computer was not available to me.

Lenhart, A., & Ling, R., Campbell S. (2010). How phones are used with friends – What they can do and how teens use them. In Teens and mobile phones (chapter two). Retrieved from


7 responses to “social networking via cell phone in high school libraries

  1. Hi Susanna!
    Great launch!

    There was just a great article about how Buffy Hamilton uses cell phones in her Unquiet Library. Her blog is great, BTW. I’ll try and find the link to that article for you.

    • Thanks, Kathy! I have just subscribed to Buffy’s 2 blogs–Unquiet Librarian and Unquiet Library. I know she will be a great resource for me over the years. BTW, I am about to register for the MSLA conference in October and therefore become a member of your fine organization. Cheers to us becoming formal colleagues again 🙂

  2. Self-discipline and focus in the face of ever-present techology is going to be a survival skill in this century… so glad you have a blog!

  3. Insightful post, and informative for us out of the educational loop to consider teen use of technology from lower income levels. Might want to keep an eye on this org in SF: They are relatively new, teens, and I believe are trying to hold a conference every year. Can tell you more about it if you want.

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