Cell phones are the thorn in my side as an educator. I totally see their educational value. It’s like a mini-computer in the palm of your hand. What a great tool! If students are curious about something, they can go look it up immediately. They can check their grades anytime without asking me. And how cool is it that I can send them reminders of tests, project deadlines, anything, anytime?
But there is a dark side…cyber bullying, endless gossip, dings and bells and ringtones that interrupt quality silent sustained reading time. And of course, there are real addictions to social media, texting, and other handheld electronic uses. Ugh….how does one get only the good uses and quarantine the bad? It is a struggle for sure.
In our district, like many, we have policies regarding student use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices. In a nutshell, students cannot have these out in our school during the school day unless given permission by an educator. Permission is typically given if a class assignment requires it or special circumstances. “Selfies” generally are not considered a special circumstance.
Today, however, I had a class assignment which required students to use cell phones if they had them. If they did not have them, they were not be penalized. Students had to turn the ringtone and alert volume to maximum level on their phones. No simple vibrate here. Then they were asked to place them screen down on their desks. Students were instructed to complete their reading assignments without touching their phones. If they rang, if they buzzed, if they quacked, if they spontaneously combusted …. didn’t matter. They could not touch the phone or stop their assignment for any reason.
I got this idea from one of the sessions I attended at yesterday’s NCMLE conference. It was shared as one activity to help students develop impulse control and other executive function skills. I couldn’t wait to try it out on my students.
I hypothesized that there would be a noise nearly every 30 seconds, but I was pleasantly surprised. During the 10 minutes I attempted this in each class, usually only two or three would sound off. Typically that was met with nervous awkward giggles from students.
At the end of the 10 minutes, I allowed students 30 seconds to check their phones. It was interesting to see which teens were aching for their technology fix and which seemed unaffected.
It was a great lesson that provided some surprises for me.