I do not think that cell phones should be allowed in school. They are just distractions to the students. I have observed in an elementary school where the teacher had to take a phone away from a 2nd grader! I think it’s ridiculous that a 2nd grader would even have a cell phone. Now of days with all these smart phones t hat are out there students can be playing games or facebooking. They are just distractions in my opinion and there isn’t a place for them in schools.
I think if they are going to be allowed, a very strong set of policies needs to be in place for their use. There also has to be a good deal of professional development for teachers in how to manage students with devices. There is a strong learning potential associated with the devices--they can help students manage their time and workload like PDA's, they can be used as tools to help students collaborate on projects, they can be used to access the internet for research, they can function as student-response devices, and much more--all without costing the school what it would otherwise cost for a 1:1 computer initiative or sets of clickers for every classroom. But this all relies on the students being truly taught how to use them as productive devices, and for the school to set the standard that this is all they are to be used for in school.
We also must keep in mind that in many, many schools, the students are bringing them anyway, no matter what the policy says. And if they don't text out in the open during class, they're probably doing it in their pockets. A tip from a teacher I know who does allow phones in class--have a "cell phone zone" on the top corner of the student's desk. Students need to place all their devices there at the beginning of class, face down. If and when the time is appropriate for the student to use the device for learning, only then should it move off its "parking space." It makes it significantly easier for the teacher to monitor their use if they're out in the open rather than on laps or in pockets or bags.
I agree that phones are a part of our world that cannot be ignored or banned. I think that students should be allowed to access them for personal use only before and after school. School polices and teacher development in this area is imperative. We must teach our children when it is appropriate to use their communication devices. Sherry Turkle's book, Alone Together, discusses the idea that our society has a habit of checking out of live conversation to access digital communication and how that is affecting our relationships...food for thought.