Nixing phones in class can spur engagement

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Both adults and students annoy friends, family and co-workers by constantly engaging with their phone instead of with others or focusing on their work.

Round Rock Independent School District recently began an experiment to limit phone time during classes, and the results have proven astounding, according to a report by KXAN, Austin’s NBC affiliate. The district’s Success High is forcing students to turn over phones by placing them in cloth pockets attached to the classroom wall before they sit down at their desks.

School leaders had wanted to institute the program for years before, but were, ironically, worried students would fall behind by not being exposed to new technology. But leaders finally saw the negative effects of the constant presence of the phones far outweighed any classroom benefits. So, the campus’s assistant principal began a pilot program, which achieved dramatic results.

In-class productivity spiked 50 percent. That was enough to turn the pilot program into a campus-wide policy. It also led to deeper conversations between students and teachers on the classwork. Teachers praised that communication, saying “kids are talking — they’re not just on their cell phones.”

One senior student said she was getting used to the separation: “Last year, if it was in my pocket, I would pull it out and check it and I didn’t get as much work done. I’m definitely getting a lot more done.”

We found this encouraging. Our cell phones are amazing devices, but there is a cost to their constant presence in everything from worker productivity to our social skills.

Teachers and campus administrators seem to have control over the level of cell phone presence, but where they are being abused, Round Rock ISD’s campus seems to have found the answer with positive results. With the constant focus on test scores, some may want to institute similar policies.

 

DISTRICT POLICY

Fredericksburg Independent School District requires parents to sign forms if their student brings a device to school. Teachers have control over whether cell phones are allowed in class.

•  The school reserves the right to inspect a student’s personal device if there is reason to believe that the student has violated rules or has engaged in other misconduct using their device.

•  Violations of any rules involving a student’s personal device may result in the loss of use of the device in school and/or disciplinary action.

•  Students must comply with teachers’ request to shut down the computer (or phone) or close the screen.

•  Students may not use the devices to record, transmit or post photos or video of a person or persons on campus. Nor can any images or video recorded at school be transmitted or posted at any time without the express permission of a teacher.

•  The student should only use their device for educational purposes.