In schools around the country the use of electronic devices continues to evolve; it is no different in Worthington Schools. Our goal is to balance the curriculum, 21st century skills, availability of technology, appropriate – and safe – student behavior, with the development of respectful, responsible digital citizenship. This is proving to be a challenging road to navigate, but certainly one we are committed to travel along with our students and families.
In 2012 when we instituted our current technology plan we became a Bring Your Own Device school district. As a district we provide 7,500 mobile devices that operate on a Google platform. Students are encouraged to bring their own devices if they wish to utilize them at school. This includes the use of smartphones.
Smartphones are powerful computers that can be used in very beneficial ways for student learning. Unfortunately, they can also increase distraction. The increased use of personal devices, especially access to social media and electronic communications, have impacted our school environments and student cultures. This impact is causing us, as well as many other school districts, to rethink our cell phone policies.
Last Tuesday at 10:00 A.M. I received a text message from my dad in Florida. He texted a picture of something he was eating to me and each of my three daughters who were sitting in three different Worthington Schools at the time. Within several minutes each of my daughters had responded to the text stream several times. Before I saw the first text there were 13 comments back and forth. I had to get on and text “ENOUGH! Dad, quit sending texts to my kids during the school day, and girls, stop responding and pay attention in school!” (BTW: this happened. I’m embellishing nothing.)
As a parent it’s really convenient to be able to communicate with my child during the school day. However, our kids are also communicating with one another during the day and I’m left to wonder how much distraction from learning this is causing and how much loss of face-to-face interaction with peers is occurring.
Our technology plan is well intentioned. Smartphones have educational benefit. On one hand, it’s our job as educators not to take things away from students but to help them learn how to utilize the tools they have and when things are appropriate and when they are not. On the other hand, as we all learn more about the addictive nature of our mobile technology we may need to rethink the role of the smartphone in the classroom.
Current practice allows for teachers to set smartphone policy for their class. However, we could create schoolwide policy. Schoolwide policy could be: “Students will be asked to keep their handheld or wearable devices (ie. Smartphone, game systems, Apple watch, etc) in their lockers during the school day. Students will be able to bring personal laptops, Chromebooks, or E-readers to the classroom. If students need to communicate with their parents during the school day, they should come to the office. Parents can call our office line and our building secretaries will connect you with your student.”
What do you think? Do we need a change in our smartphone policy? Would you support a change to our smartphone policy? Are we best to leave our policy as is with teacher discretion? No decisions or changes are imminent on how we deal with smartphones but it’s something we’re always evaluating.
-Trent Bowers, Superintendent