“Cell phone pockets” help minimize distractions for Lansing high-schoolers

Illiana teachers introduce new cell phone policy this school year

by Beth Boonstra, Illiana journalism student

LANSING, Ill. (September 2017) – To remove the temptation that cell phones present to students, several English teachers at Lansing’s Illiana Christian High School have started a new cell phone holder policy this school year. Miss Sara Johnson, Mrs. Emily Hillegonds, and Mrs. Kristy Medema have designed a system of pockets in which their students place their phones upon arrival to class.

“The students can place their phones either frontwards or backwards,” said Johnson. “It is in their sightline so they can see it, and if they see that they are getting a series of text messages or if their mom or dad is calling them several times, then they just have to raise their hand” and ask permission to check it.

Differing opinions

Transfer student Junior Luke Oppenhuis frequently uses his phone during classes to talk to friends at his old school. He strongly believes that he has a right to keep his phone on his person. Oppenhuis said, “[If I were a teacher,] I would let [students] have their phones because if they’re not going to pay attention and listen, it’s their fault and they can fail the test.”

Senior Jordan Miller said he has little need for his phone during classes, and he appreciates teachers looking out for students’ best interests by creating a learning environment without the distraction of phones.

Survey results

According to a 2010 study conducted by the University of Michigan, the schools that allow students to have phones, but do not permit their use during class, have 65% of their students using them in class anyway.

cell phone pockets
Figure 1: How often do you use your phone during class (without permission)?
Cell phone pockets
Figure 2: What are you doing on your phone? Why do you check your phone during class?

According to a survey by the Echo, Illiana’s newspaper, approximately 40% of Iliana’s students use their phones during class. Approximately 15% of Illiana students check their phones nearly every class period. The majority of students who use their phones during class are texting, closely followed by the use of Snapchat.

Health and well-being

Some students were unashamed to admit that they are addicted to their phones. They claim to panic without their phones and can’t stop thinking about them, but they don’t see this as a problem. Others struggled to admit that they may care more about their phones than they should at times, one even repeatedly checking his phone and taking a selfie in the middle of an interview.

English teacher Emily Hillegonds is concerned for students’ well-being. “I listened to a podcast this summer on how addicting phones can be,” she said. “The basic concept was that phones are built like gambling machines. They have the bright lights and flashing messages across a screen.” Phone users slowly put more and more “focus and worth on that screen.”

Other concerns

As a teacher of sophomore and senior English, Johnson was concerned about cell phone usage for multiple reasons. She’s seen Snapchats of teachers taken without their permission, and it gives her concerns about photos that students could take of her or out-of-context recordings of her during class.

Johnson said, “When I started thinking about Snapchat, and its use in class, I started thinking about how easy it would be for a student to take a picture of a test or a quiz and send that picture to other students, and there would be virtually no record of it. I just thought that would be a huge temptation for our students.” Johnson has no desire to waste time being the “policeman of cell phones.” She doesn’t want to constantly suspect her students, so she takes away that possibility.

About cell phone pockets, Johnson said, “It’s me eliminating a bad choice you could make in class or a distraction that you could have in class.” She says student response to this policy has been generally positive. She even had a student come to class relieved to give up his phone because the vibrations had been so distracting for him in his previous class.

Johnson also reasons that this policy does not work for every teacher in the school because of different classes’ requirement of the use of technology in class, but it works for her.

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