At my school, the students are not supposed to have phones out in the hall or in class, unless approved by a teacher. They are supposed to be completely out of sight. Students can only use them at lunch.
I have a policy in my room of "first time's a warning, second time's a referral" for things like texting, a phone ringing/vibrating, or using phones for non-approved purposes like getting on FB.
I DO allow students to use phones in a couple circumstances. One is to use an online dictionary to look up unknown words in pieces of writing. Honestly, it has never been an issue because if we're not doing vocab., they shouldn't have them out. When we are, I roam the aisles and can tell if they are actually using them to look up words or not. Once we're done, they go away.
I also will allow them to listen to music through earbuds when writing papers in the lab, as I know that helps some students. I tell them they need to pick a playlist and stick with it and the phone goes in the pocket--they can't keep looking for songs every two seconds or they lose the privilege.
I know even in college this is a problem--I had a college professor who would dock you an entire letter grade if your phone rang in class.
I don't think there's a best or worst way to handle it, but I'm always looking for ideas, because even with my policy and even with allowing usage for classroom things, I still have students trying to text or "going to the bathroom" to use their phone.
So I think next semester, I am starting a new policy that another teacher in my school uses and that I have heard of working elsewhere. I'm going to require students to place phones upside down on the corner of their desk while in my room. That way, they have control over it and it's not out of their possession (some teachers collect phones and give them back at the end of the hour), but it's obvious to me when a phone is being used. They also can't go spend five min. in the bathroom just texting under the pretense of having to use the restroom--I will see if they grab their phone when getting up from their desk.
The teacher who uses this says it's works wonderfully and she has no texting issues anymore. Because it's right there and upside down, the students don't feel the need to compulsively check it and/or they know they will easily get caught. I am so tired of kids trying to text through their pockets, in their hoodie pouches, in their pencil bags, or at their sides and playing the game of catching them in the act. I don't think cell phones are altogether a bad thing in the classroom, which is why I approve usage at times. But there's no reason students can't learn to go 50 min. without checking FB or their text messages!
So what do you think? What's your cell phone policy and does it work? Do you use phones for educational purposes in the classroom?