How far should schools go in banning student phones? 

Educators say phones are a distraction, but many parents feel safer if their children have them
By: | September 17, 2019
As schools around the U.S. are banning cell phones in the classroom, Forest Hills Public Schools recently enacted their own mobile phone SDI Productions

Schools, and even some districts, are banning cell phones in the classroom as research continues to show that their use hinders learning. 

Students who don’t use phones in class are more productive, one study concluded, while another report found that just the mere presence of these devices (even when put aside) reduces people’s cognitive capacity. 

In Michigan, Forest Hills Public Schools (10,000 students) recently joined other state districts by enacting their own mobile phone ban, according to a report in Bridge Magazine. Forest Hills students are barred from carrying or using cell phones throughout the school day.

From DA: Do cell phones belong in classrooms? 

“The regularity of a cell phone disrupting a student’s ability to focus on something is as damaging as having a loud noise, a train engine, randomly disrupting instruction in the classroom,” Forest Hills Superintendent Dan Behm told Bridge Magazine.

At Colchester High School in Vermont, teachers are allowed to set their own cell phone rules and use them to teach lessons in human interaction. “We have a teacher who has a case that students can put their phones in that she’s labeling the hotel. Kids can check their cell phones in and out of the hotel,” Principal Heather Baron told WCAX.

From DA: Cell phone technology makes it easier to spread the word 

Parents are split on the issue of allowing cell phones in the classroom. Since Monte Del Sol Charter School in New Mexico enacted a mobile phone ban in 2016, parents say students are more focused in class and even talk to one another at lunchtime, DA recently reported.

Some parents don’t approve of any mobile phone ban policy because having direct contact with their child is convenient. Mobile devices can also help students with disabilities, they argue. For example, an 18-year-old student at Senn High School in Illinois uses a cell phone app in class to adjust her hearing aids.

“She can control them to adjust the volume for different noise levels in the classroom,” Sheila Graven said of her daughter to the Chicago Sun-Times. “She finds that very useful.”

Allowing students to have cell phones in the classroom could also increase their safety during an emergency situation. In fact, a DA op-ed recently covered how essentially every student, teacher and administrator used a mobile device to call 9-11 during the shootings last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“So why not use these tools to improve communication and help control a crisis situation?” wrote COO Debi Davis of FrandMe Education, which focuses on enhancing school security and communications. “This type of communications system is part of a layered approach to securing our schools. In addition to the security function, the efficiency of teacher-student and parent-teacher communication is also improved.”

Resource: Using Smartphones in the Classroom

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