"Should teachers tolerate telephones in the classroom? "
Having seen schools in Thailand pretty much tell teachers to 'ignore the phones' and see their classes descend into chaos, I can't see the benefits.
During a placement in a UK school, I witnessed the enforcement of a ban on children bringing mobile phones to the school. The result? One of the highest performing state schools in the north of England which constantly receives 'Outstanding' ratings from Ofsted. The kids are attentive and every teacher I spoke to said that allowing mobile phones in the classroom does not aid learning. I believe there are studies out there which validate this too.
They used technological aids in my placement school too, including interactive whiteboards. Laptops were made available for the pupils from time to time (to access Science/Maths/English games/tests online etc). The school made sure that only learning sites or sites like the BBC were available. Tech is fine, if used well.
To be honest, I could see issues with 'bullying' if the teacher tried to incorporate the use of smartphones in the classroom. What about the kids from less affluent backgrounds who may not have the latest iPhone? TIT, remember? I doubt many schools can afford to buy all the kids new smartphones anyway.
Distractions aren't usually great for a teacher, although I once had a snake enter a classroom and the children learned some new words that day. Not bad ones from me, but phrases like "The children were very frightened and ran out of the classroom!"
However, on the whole, distractions can be a nightmare for a teacher (and foreign teachers in Thailand have to put up with a lot of interruptions, from Thai teachers etc). Interruptions must be kept to a minimum, wherever possible if one wishes to improve learning.
The fewer interruptions, the better!