Mobile Phone Shutdown

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

During the first few weeks before my new campus opened, many people wanted to know what the mobile phone policy would be for students, especially those students living on-campus.

A decision was made to allow teachers to set their classroom norms, and to give the students an opportunity to use technology responsibly. This very open policy would be applied, and results would be evaluated.

The first month of school yielded some very interesting results, and eventually lead to a big change not only in policy, but also in campus culture.

The Real Issue

The assumption most adults and educators make is that students will waste time while using their devices in class.

The truth is that students using mobile phones outside of the classroom, is in fact a severe waste of time compared to the time lost in the classroom. Policies focusing on controlling students and preventing them from enjoying some form of entertainment while in class, are missing the core issue(s).

The real issue with students who are engaged in very high levels of screen-time, is that the engagement negates their time to socialize. The device, ironically, pushes them further apart from one another, even if they are using the device to communicate.

Classroom use of devices can be very beneficial. Teachers can task students and keep them working and interacting, while socializing.

During the first month of observation, when left to their own prerogative, students in social situations would default to the use of social media apps and free or freemium games instead of talking to one another.

The students were not engaged in deep discussions, academic information exchange, or even conversations about making plans for their weekends. They were just engaged in activities that had a short and very shallow feedback loop.

My personal observations were combined with others, and everyone agreed that we did not want a campus culture that encouraged students to not socialize; to sit alone and stare at a screen; and that seemed to push curiosity to the floor.


READ MORE at The International Educator Online


Back-to-School Night 2013 VS Back-to-School Night 2009

It is hard to measure progress sometimes. I often feel like I have moved technology forward, only to stop and question that notion when I run into an unforeseen problem.

This week, however, I was able to notice an improvement during back-to-school night. I had not even planned on being on-campus for it, but realized that I had failed to remind someone in IT to be on-hand for tech support. So I stayed.

As I was sitting quietly I noticed a few things:

  1. No one was coming-up to me with a problem.
  2. No one was calling me.
  3. I was not getting any emails.

This was a surprise, because back-to-school night means there are 100 teachers in the their rooms running presentations for parents. All of them, seemingly, were self-sufficient and not needing IT support.

I thought back to back-to-school night in 2009, my first year in this position. It was a living hell. I was at school from 3PM-7PM just helping people in their rooms. I was bouncing between presentations from 7PM-9PM trying to keep people afloat amongst the masses.

Four years later -nothing. Everything was working. Why?

I think the main reason is the implementation of a policy in 2011 that was specifically designed to develop a DIY attitude. The policy basically said:

  1. Everyday you need to disconnect your laptop and put it away or take it home.
  2. You must be able to setup your laptop, sound, projection, and interactive board in under 5 minutes.
  3. You must be able to manage display switching on your own.
  4. Ask your department before you ask IT if you have a question.

This might seem basic to many people, but in fact, the policy in place was to treat your laptop like a powered brick, and leave it on the desk. If there was an issue, notify IT, and have them come literally do everything. There was no responsibility on the teacher to master the basic tools they needed for their job.

In addition to this, we enabled teachers to manage their own laptops. We gave them full permission to install software and make changes. If something new came along, a video and pdf would go out explaining to them what to do. Watching and/or reading were required. IT would insist the teachers attempt things on their own, before asking for help.

Maybe common sense, but the culture was going the opposite way at the time. It took effort and time. I can say that I can check this off as a success. I would often note the statistics regarding the number of tech support tickets. They kept falling steadily. Some people would say that maybe the decrease was due to people simply not submitting tickets.

Having the back-to-school night experience reinforced the data that I had been collecting for years. The DIY approach works, and no matter how annoyed people seem to be when asked to address their own problems, they are alway more confident and on a more level playing field when it comes to dealing with those leading technology.

It is always important to remember that education is about creating opportunities for everyone, and not just students. Policies need to help teachers develop and learn, just on a more gradual incline than policies applied to students.

Tony DePrato