This article appeared in today's Times' about cell phone usage in schools. This stuff just drives me crazy. There had been another article previous to this in the Times and a letter to the editor said it all, "Who's in charge - the kids or the school?"
One of the key issues here (and I'll probably write a related post based on a meeting I attended this week about underage drinking in northeast schools in Seattle) is ...parents. What is up with parents and this need to be able to reach your child at all times? Your child is at school; find out what time their lunch hour is and call then. It's the same with the district and the school administrator. If you have a policy, enforce it. Tell teachers "this means you" and do not allow differences from class to class. As a parent of a teen, I can tell you that the minute there are "exceptions" teenagers crack that loophole wide open.
This is a good article because it talks about the myths of cell phones at schools. Like number one is "teachers don't like gadgets". Under this myth there was this:
"Students don't wear watches anymore, preferring to use cellphone clocks, Fox-Bailey said." Hey kids, that big thing on the wall? It's called a clock.
"When students work on group projects, he tells them to get out their cellphones and swap numbers. Some download audio books or vocabulary lists to review on iPods."
Okay, fine, this is the world of education with today's technology. But all the teacher has to say is "Do not take out your cell phone until I tell you to for any class-related work."
"He allows students to listen to music in class during free reading time. "Some kids can't read unless they have something to distract them from the ambient noise," he said."
I heard this from Eckstein teachers and I don't buy it. It is a distraction and it turns the classroom into the haves and have nots. What is this coddling of students? They can't work unless all conditions are perfect for them?
"Students use electronics as "a way to accessorize their identity," Fox-Bailey said. "This is how they express themselves." "
They can do this to their hearts content outside the classroom.
Myth: phones are the worst. From a middle school principal in the article:
"There's a lot of stuff out there," said Tom Duenwald, principal at Bellevue's Tillicum Middle School. "I don't want to spend all my time policing electronic devices. What really matters to us is instructional class time."
Yeah, and that's why you DO spend time on policies with clear expectations and consequences. The class time is for naught if the kids are not on task. You aren't teaching if kids aren't focused.
The article also discusses real problems with cellphones:
"They're also put to more nefarious purposes. "We have had students text each other back and forth about tests," noted Bellevue's Odle Middle School Assistant Principal Alexa Allman in an e-mail. Anderson, who estimates more than 70 percent of Skyview's students own phones, found students using camera phones to capture test pages."
In addition, I had read about problems in schools in other states where they had to ban the use of cellphones in locker rooms and bathrooms because of the problem of students taking intimate pictures of other students.
Again, why is this so hard? It's not banning cellphones from schools. Many parents and students do need to keep in contact. But no one needs to use or check their cell phone in class. If districts and principals do not create and enforce policies that protect all students' rights to learning in a classroom, then where does it end?