Students and Teachers Discuss Cell Phone Policies

As of 2020 cell phones have found their place in the back pockets of 3.5 billion people. With the number of cellphone users rising, discussions regarding the use of these devices in school have as well.

At Livermore High School, the teachers weigh in on their opinions towards cell phones. They give their views on whether they are beneficial or are if they cause distraction in a learning environment. They give insight into what methods they employ to counteract these distractions, and how they feel the school can better help teachers help students remain focused in class. 

The students attending the high school give their opinions regarding the policies that have already been set in place.

At the moment, there are a few policies in place at the high school regarding cell phone use in class. Teachers have a variety of options for how they deal with cell phones in their classrooms. The official school policy states that cell phones be turned off and placed out of sight during school hours.

Some teachers have found success with this method and others argue that further improvements could be made as well.

Mrs. Tiara Johnson, an English teacher, believes that preventing students from being distracted by their phones is “all about managing it, [and] making clear your expectations from phone use.” 

Johnson allows her students to use their phones for research in class, if there are not enough Chromebooks available and has them use phone pockets when they are ”doing something where I feel for sure that I don’t want them to have their phones out, like when we’re reading out-loud or watching a video clip.” Johnson says that she receives a little complaint from the students and that this method works best if she is consistent in enforcement. 

Ms. Martin has also had success with the use of cell phone pockets during times where she feels it is necessary to prevent distraction. Martin has her students place their phones in the phone organizer when they are taking tests but allows them to listen to music when doing group work, given it does cause any distraction. Martin believes that “there can be a balance of letting students use their phones and letting them know their limits. It is a lot of work upfront, showing that balance, but it usually works out.”

Martin does not believe that a no-phone school policy wouldn’t be effective because “it would be impossible to control,” and that LHS is not “ a one-on-one school,” with enough technology for every student to use in the place of the absence of phones. She believes that boundaries on phone use in class should be discussed early into the start of the year to ensure that distractions caused by cell phones are kept to a minimum.

Ms. Carol Myllebeck, an English teacher, sees cell phones as being beneficial for research in class but that they cause a distraction as well. Myllenbeck would appreciate there being a standardized policy that is “something we can all come up with and agree to,” regarding the enforcement of teachers having their students place their phones in the phone holders.

Mr. David Lowry, a math teacher, believes that the cell phone holders are helpful in his class but that the lack of enforcement in each class causes a disparity in how beneficial the phone pockets are in each class at LHS. He would like to, “see some policy where students need to put their cell phones into someplace where they can’t get to it during my lecture.” However, Lowry doesn’t believe it is, ”likely to happen because I don’t think a whole school is going to adopt that.” 

Mrs. Susan Johnston, a math teacher, finds that the use of cellphones in class to collect data from labs and other activities allows for the school to save money. If the students can use their phones to conduct research and gather data, the school can spend less money on other equipment. For this reason, she hopes that the school will continue to allow the use of cell phones.

Johnston allows finds that “students and people alike are addicted to our cell phones and to connecting to people.” She finds that the cell phone pockets are a great start to correcting the issue of distractions caused by phones in her class and beloved that another addition to this method could be a cell phone pocket for teachers to use to “model the behavior.”

Other teachers have found that phones do not cause distraction at all in their class and believe that it is up to the teachers to make clear of their position of cell phones in class.

Ms. Dawn Matthews, a social science teacher, has found that cell phones do not cause a distraction at all in her class and she believes this is due to the policy she has her student follow.

“At the start of every class, at least for the first week or two in a trimester, right as the students come in, I tell them to take their phones out of their pockets, and put them in a zipped pocket of their backpack or purse.”

Mathews has found that if she is clear and upfront with her students regarding the policy, that the class has succeeded in staying off their phones and paying attention during class.

While there has been a definite increase in the conversation surrounding cell phone use in class, this is not a new event. According to Mr. Jeffery Taves, an English teacher, “teachers and the administration have been holding this discussion for several years now.” In Taves’ opinion, the reason behind the lack of progress in this discussion has been the pushback from students based on the argument that they need their cellphones in class in case there is an emergency.

Before the school makes any decisions regarding cell phone policies at LHS, some students felt that it was important that they share their opinions as well.

Emerson Carr (grade 10) has noted that in regards to cell phone policy, his teachers are “pretty loose” about enforcing it but that he finds no problems with this method.

“I usually pay attention [in class] but it’s like once they tell you not to be on your phone, I kind of feel like I have to.” He compared it to when someone tells you not to laugh and feeling the obligation to laugh only because someone told you not to.

Carr finds that discussion regarding cell phone use has increased due to there being “more people with more access to technology, “ and “a generation difference between teachers and students.” Carr believes that this is a new territory for the teachers because they did not grow up with the access teenagers have today and are struggling to find control to find a way to control the situation. 

Kalyan Manickaraja (grade 9) stated that the policies his teachers follow are effective for maintaining the class’s attention because they have their students place their phones in bins during class time.

He finds that a more in-depth conversation between teachers and students about cell phones is necessary for there to be an understanding. He thinks that discussion about cell phone policy has increased because the teachers “think that students are using them to find answers for stuff for school” or are cheating on assignments. 

Manickaraja wishes that teachers would ask students questions before making assumptions about them being on their phone. “They think we’re either on social media or playing games.” 

Rachel Blair (grade 9) shares the same ideas as Manickaraja when it comes to assumptions teachers shave about students’ phone usage. “They think you’re on social media or texting but really you could be doing something for the class.”

 Blair finds that the teachers who are clear about their phone use policies in class typically don’t receive any push back from students and all the teachers need to do is “enforce the rules,” and tell the students when to be off their phone and that they typically will listen.

Jacqueline Pence (grade 12) believes that students are going to be distracted by their phones regardless of what policies are put in place but that phone pockets are the most effective, although “irritating,” a way of preventing cell phone use in class. 

Pence, however, enjoys listening to music in class, given the teacher’s permission, and would prefer not to use phone pockets to do this. 

In Pence’s opinion, “phones are fine if you are not distracting anyone else,”

Jessica Weise (grade 12) agreed with Pence and added that someone being distracted by their phone is fine, as long as they are only distracting themselves. 

“It’s fine if you’re only distracting yourself, it’s your grade.”

Nancy Alvarez (grade 11) shares the idea that teachers only assume that students are texting or on social media when they are on their phones. She explained that sometimes this can be true but other times, someone may just be researching for help on a question for an assignment.

She mentioned that she has a teacher where a balance has been found in this type of situation. Alvarez explained that when a student is researching a question, they are required to do so at the teacher’s to allow for the teacher to ensure that the student is doing what they’re supposed to do.

Given the variety of opinions regarding cell phone use in class, it is important to hear both sides of the issue and attempt to find a balance.