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Cell Phone Policy Limits Classroom Use for Non-Educational Purposes

By: Carissa Zawiski/Sophomore Writer

When the 2018-19 school year began, high school principal Casey Webster announced her resolve to limit non-academic use of cell phones in the classroom, telling teachers and students that the distractions from cell phone use play a big part in a variety of social conflicts and are an overall distraction from learning.

As part of her initiative, Webster placed phone storage units in every high school classroom and spoke to students during class meeting time about placing their phones in the storage units upon arrival to each class, saying: “Unless your teacher tells you it’s okay to use the phone for a learning activity, your phone should remain in your locker or be placed in the cell phone organizers when you arrive at your class.”

It turns out that Webster’s concern about cell phones distracting from learning in the classroom is backed by a  recent study on cell phone use in the classroom which found that non-academic use of cell phones distracts not only the user from academic learning, but also impairs academic success for the surrounding students–something many teachers say they already knew.

Arnold L. Glass, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, one of the authors of the study, states: “Many dedicated students think they can divide their attention in the classroom without harming their academic success – but we found an insidious effect on exam performance and final grades.”

The study found that students were actually using their phones during class time for a variety of non-academic reasons, including “texting, watching a movie, playing a game, and shopping,” resulting in divided attention and less learning.

Although the study looks at cell phone use at the college-level, the results provide a serious look at the dynamics of learning in any classroom, finding “divided attention reduced long-term retention.”

According to Blue Ridge Spanish teacher Lucrecia Jesse, fewer interruptions in teaching result in a better learning environment for students.

She says when students don’t have the phones on their person, “I get through my lesson plans. There are no interruptions during instruction time asking students to put their phones away.”

Even so, Jesse says, “They still need to be used for class work at times because I do not have laptops or Chromebooks in my class.”

Math teacher Miss Sarah Yeust agrees, saying that fewer distractions and interruptions during the class period is a real benefit to students, yet there are times when she likes to use cell phones for certain learning games and apps.

A majority of students that were interviewed say they would prefer to keep their phones with them at all times.

11th grader Erin Houlihan says, “I personally like having my phone on me, even if I can’t use it while working. It makes me feel safer and more comfortable.”

Many students interviewed say they like to use their phones to check the time, but Mrs. Michelle Montague says an issue with cell phones in class “would be not knowing if the student is just checking the time on their phone, or if they are distracted and not paying attention in class.”

Some students say that time spent on their phones is actually geared toward learning. For example, junior Kayleen Conklin says that she uses her phone “a lot for school work and educational purposes, like using a dictionary app because it’s much quicker than using a textbook.”

And senior Andrew Merrell says he finds a benefit from using his phone to listen to music while working as it blocks out other distractions.

Of the cell phone policy,  Merrell says: “I believe that it is justified in our core classes, however during …flex, and other preps I valued being able to listen to music, it allowed me to better focus on my work.”

Sophomore Jessica McEwen agrees with Merrell and says, “Class is for class, but we should be able to listen to music for flex and Carnegie Lab.”

Despite some students’ opposition to the no-cell phones-in-class policy, Blue Ridge resource officer Greg Deck says he sees the necessity for its implementation.

“Cell phones are very disruptive,” says Deck. He further states they cause unnecessary interruptions in learning.

While many students are still adjusting to the policy, it seems most teachers are seeing the benefits.

PE and Health teacher, Sarah Stang summed it by saying, “I think this is a good idea for the school, there’s too many distractions with phones.”

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The Raider Reader staff is made up of students from Blue Ridge High School who are part of the school's journalism class. Students write, edit and produce the the news found at RaiderReader.Org.
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