I work in a fantastic district that believes wholeheartedly in the power of BYOD or Bring Your Own Device. All year, we have harnessed the power of especially cell phones as we have taken pictures, recorded video, searched for facts, and used them in ways that made what we were already more meaningful, easier, and more efficient. I believe in the power of great BYOD. I believe in the power of teaching students how to use the devices they have in a meaningful way. I believe that all schools should allow students to use the devices they already have so they can work with what they have access to, not what we decide they need.
And yet, my students are distracted. They are often on their phones checking the time, checking their notifications, moving it, taking one from a friend, or wondering where they put it. And so am I. My own phone is an integral part of our classroom. I send out pictures of students working throughout the day, I take pictures for parents to see, I tweet from my phone to showcase their learning, and I search quick facts we may need as we discuss. But I also look for my phone, get distracted by its blinking, and check that quick notification and then wonder what that email, Vox, or text may say while I am supposed to be teaching. Not all the time, but it happens, and it happens more and more.
As a teacher, I am worried about the constant distractions. About the small bursts of attention we can give to things before we get that check itch. The itch that tells us to check our phone quick, check the time, check whatever. That rush we get whenever we see something new come across our screens. As a parent, I worry even more as I see how much my students rely on their phones to communicate, about the intense scrutiny their social media presence gets, and how wrapped up their self-esteem is in their device and the messages they get through them. What I am not worried about so much is how students seem to be less connected with those in front of them, I am that way, but with books, which just happens to be a more socially acceptable way of disconnecting. But the constant urge in the back of our collective minds to just check really quick; that is getting in the way of learning for all of us.
So with 11 days left of school, I am declaring our room a device free zone. At least on some days. At least on the days where the constant distraction of merely having the device will stop us from going deeper with our learning. At least on the days where everything we need to can be accomplished without the help of any devices. It is not a declaration of war against devices. It is not a breach of rights. I will simply be asking my students to leave their cell phones in pockets, lockers, or a designated bin along with my own. So that we can focus on what we have in front of us, not what someone might have said or the rest of the world. But us, the community we have right here, and the actions we want to take a part in.
Yes, cell phones and devices have a rightful place in our classrooms, but just like any tool, they are not needed every single day, every single moment. And sure, there will always be distractions, we all need brain drifts where we can activate our brains in a different manner, but the focus on just this one thing has to be spread out. Has to be ,discussed, processed, and changed. So it starts tomorrow, no better time to start than right away. .
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join ourPassionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.