Do smartphones enhance or inhibit education?

I received an email informing me of the high school’s new “phone vault” program. Here’s how it is supposed to work:  Classrooms have numbered pouches in the front of the room. When the students arrive in class, they are to place their phone (and smartwatch) into the pouch. Unless directed by the teacher, the students are not allowed to access their phone during class. When the class is over, they can collect their phones.

If a student does not put the phone in the vault, and the teacher sees the student’s phone, it is immediately confiscated and given to the vice principal. The student can retrieve the phone from the vice principal at the end of the day.

My senior thinks this “phone vault” program is very childish. He does not agree with the phone vault pouches, and instead chooses to keep his phone in his pocket during class.

Yesterday, he took his phone out of his pocket … during the last five minutes of the day … while the sociology teacher was showing YouTube prank videos (seriously). His phone was immediately taken away and placed on the teacher’s desk. When the class ended, he took his phone from the teacher’s desk and came home. He assumed, that because it was the end of the day, he could have his phone back without going to the vice principal’s office.

He was wrong.

I got an email after school from both the teacher and the VP. I was informed that, because he broke the rule and took his phone from the teacher’s desk, he was being punished. He was asked to report to the VP’s office first thing in the morning.

In the morning, the VP informed him of his punishment. He is required to turn in his phone every morning for the next three days. He can not use it during school hours. He can pick it up at the end of each school day.  

Needless to say, he is livid. Today he was unable to access his notes (on his phone) to study for his math test. He was also unable to look at the research he is doing for his senior project (also on his phone). Not having his phone during school limits his ability to take notes, study and work on school projects.

I do not naively think that his phone is only used for educational purposes, I know he also uses his phone for entertainment and communication.

I feel bad for my son. I understand his frustration and anger.

I am also a responsible adult, so I understand rules and consequences. Because the rules were stated clearly, I agree that it was my son’s fault for looking at his phone during class. He was in the wrong and he broke the class rule … but the punishment seems a bit extreme.

Besides the school policy and subsequent punishments, let’s stop for a moment and recognize the importance of smartphones in our lives. Technology is going to continue to advance and be an integral part of our lives. It is how we learn and interact with the world. Removing smartphones from the classroom does not teach students how to use smartphones to learn. It does not teach responsibility or respect.

The issues that needs to be addressed are:

  • How do we balance our use of technology and smartphones while also teaching respect and responsibility?
  • Do phones make it harder for kids to learn, or easier?
  • Can smartphones enhance our kids education, or do they inhibit it?

What do you think?

Melanie Flake

Melanie Flake

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