Schools continue to evaluate roll of cell phones in class


In the past, cell phones in schools were seen as a distraction to the educational environment.
Now, they have a new purpose.
Jonathan Langhals, assistant superintendent for the Marysville Exempted Village School District, said educators over the years have been able to incorporate their students’ cell phones as educational tools since the inception of the smartphone. Seeing how phones have become an integral part society, he said it was a good answer to a growing concern in schools.
“Kids are very savvy with technology,” he said. “When phones started to become smart, kids were actually teaching us as educators some of the possibilities that phones had that could enrich the educational experience.”
At elementary schools in Marysville, cell phones are to be silenced and put away “in a safe spot.” Students may use them before or after school to contact their families.
For Bunsold Middle School, cellphones can be used along with lessons, but recording videos or taking photos is restricted to certain areas. For Marysville High School, phones are also incorporated into lessons and can be used. Students there are guided based on teacher expectations for what they’re doing with their phones.
Langhals said as a school administrator in a time before smartphones, districts had to either ban or allow cellphones, but they had to be silenced and stored in a backpack or locker.
Now, he said schools like those in Marysville have “embraced it” and incorporate cell phones into education.
“Apps and the internet took smartphones in a serious direction as educational tools,” Langhals said. “They have the ability to connect to the internet, utilize educational-based apps that can be downloaded to devices and help provide a portion of education to help students.”
Langhals said cellphones were an answer to a growing problem among school districts involving technology demands. He said schools were struggling to keep up with acquiring computers to accommodate students.
“Schools had to get creative and embrace students who had smartphones,” Langhals said. “They had to embrace the possibilities of utilizing them to enhance the educational experience for kids.”
Though cell phones were substitutes for computers back then, he said as of recently, they’re not as needed anymore due to the affordability of the one-to-one program, which gave students access to personal Chromebooks.
He said technology today is used to help personalize education, and makes it easier to know how a child learns. He said the diversity of technology available in schools, with Chromebooks and smartphones, helps educators understand what works with educational spaces.
“We have a responsibility to help make sure our students are going to be good digital citizens,” he said.
The approach to cell phones at Fairbanks High School is close to what Marysville schools have.
Fairbanks High School principal Tom Montgomery said while cell phone use is at the discretion of the teachers, they can still be used to enhance lessons.
“When cell phones came out, they were more of a distraction and less of a tool to be used for the classroom,” Montgomery said. “But, as cell phones advanced in their technology and capabilities, it was obvious cell phones could be a tool in the classroom and not a distraction.”
He said smartphones may be used to substitute for a Chromebook that has a low battery, or if a student forgot to bring their computer to school.
Montgomery said the trend of cell phones being crucial in the classrooms is dying down, and is being quickly replaced by the one-to-one program that provided students with Chromebooks.
He said cell phones helped students, who had a lack of access to technology, be able to use electronic course materials in classrooms, but now there’s no urgent need for them.
“The phone has revolutionized classroom instruction,” Montgomery said. “It also led us to where we wanted to go one-to-one and have a better control over the technology they used in our classes.”
Montgomery said cell phone use in classes is ultimately up to the discretion of the teacher, whether they want to incorporate them into their lesson plans or not.

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