By Jaime Thomas
As new technology continues to become more easily available, new rules and regulations must inevitably be created.
In school systems, for example, administrators are now fighting a new distraction among their students: cell phones.
A recently published study found that 78 percent of teens now have a cellphone, and almost half (47 percent) of those say they have smartphones, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Texting, calling, playing games and accessing the internet – the capabilities of modern phones are endless. But how does that fit in with a learning environment?
In Granville, the district has decided to embrace the technology rather than shun it. The board of education approved changes to its telephone use policy following a public hearing last month. The former policy required students to keep their phones in their lockers all day, said Jim Donnelly, High School Principal.
“It became impossible to consistently and across the board to police all the students because they hid them on their bodies,” he said.
Donnelly said the school asked around at other districts to see how they were handling the issue and found that Saratoga and Queensbury had more open policies.
“We thought let’s look at career and work and college readiness. How are people expected to use phones in the real world?” he said. So rather than try to suppress a too-large problem, Granville is teaching their students the etiquette that goes along with having a cellphone.
“We’re focusing on what’s realistic and appropriate. We talk about college professors who wouldn’t allow it. We told them a story about a Granville graduate who got instantly fired from his fast food job for texting,” Donnelly said.
The new policy gives teachers authority over cellphone use in their classes, and it allows students to use their phones during certain times of the school day, like lunch and passing periods.
Donnelly doesn’t think the issue is necessarily a new one; in the 1990s, he said districts went through a “real tug of war” with mp3 players.
“Electronic devices have become so much a part of teen culture; it’s different,” he said. And while many schools have been trying to enforce an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ policy, Granville is giving their students a chance to earn privileges by acting appropriately.
So far, Donnelly said the new policy has been working well, and there have been few disciplinary cases.
“They want to keep the flexi-use policy. We’re cautiously optimistic that the students are handling this well,” he said.