There has been a lot of change in the Franklin community lately, with the return to the new building bringing about changes in school rules and policies. While students and staff have acclimated to the new environment mostly with acceptance and flexibility, one change has been controversial among the student body: cell phones. The school-wide phone policy states that, “cell phones and electronic devices are required to be off and away during all class periods, unless a teacher permits their use for instructional purposes only,” and outlines specific guidelines for teachers to follow if a student does not abide by these rules. This new policy, while highly scrutinized by students, is necessary for a more welcoming and productive learning environment.
When the policy was first introduced, many students expressed confusion about this seemingly abrupt decision. However, it can be traced all the way back to last school year, when teams of teachers were created to help make the move back to Franklin smoother. One of those groups, the School Climate Team, wanted to address the rising concerns about phone use and create a policy that teachers could fall back on.
“There was a collective call that the school needed to have a policy that would better support our teachers … so that they could better instruct our students,” said Vice Principal Chris Frazier. He also noted that they had looked at what other nearby school districts were doing to deal with phones in classrooms to better their understanding of what would be effective.
The general lack of acceptance of this policy most likely comes from a lack of understanding. There is a common misconception that humans can multitask, but the human brain actually cannot focus on two things at once. When students were constantly bringing out their phones during instructional periods, it was taking their attention away from what was being taught, which did not allow for the proper processing of educational material. Some teachers also used to permit students to listen to music while doing individual work. A study referenced on the Harvard Business Review Blog states that listening to music while working decreased productivity by up to 40%. The new policy, technically does not permit listening to music, unless students have special accommodation laid out in their Individualized Education Plan. This allows for a more productive learning environment. “I think the levels of engagement have increased,” said Frazier.
Despite its necessity, the policy does have some flaws that make students question how effective it really is. According to a study conducted in 2010 by the University of Michigan, in schools that did not allow phone use in the classroom, 65% of students either received or sent text messages during instructional periods, and in schools that completely banned phone use, the usage was still as high as 58%, so it seems that even with strict policies in place, students aren’t really altering their usage habits.
Franklin student Laura Skinner (11) was particularly shocked by the policy, and said that teachers and staff “seem to think that having phones at all would be the end of the world.” She explained that she uses her phone quite often for school work in her classes, so by making usage more restricted, she hasn’t been able to use it as a tool as much as she would like.
One thing Skinner also noted was that there should have been more student input. Frazier said that they discussed phone policy at a Student Senate meeting at the end of last year, but admitted that was the extent of student input, and said that the policy would have gone into place regardless of resistance from students. This decision was appropriate; student voices do not always need to dictate policy, especially in situations where their opinions are going to be biased. Despite this, Skinner thinks student voice still should have been more involved. “Regardless [of] if they were going to change their minds or not, as teenagers, we like to at least feel like we have some kind of input in things,” she said.
Hopefully as the school year progresses, students will begin to accustom themselves to the new policy and realize its benefits. This change in the school climate will create more self-accountability and thoughtfulness surrounding phone use which is something that is long overdue in our school. Although some faults in the policy have been pointed out, Frazier made its goal very clear: “we want our students to be successful.”