Be the change, being a teacher, technology

Lessons from a #PhoneFree Classroom

I have been meaning to write more about our phone free classroom for a while.  It’s been more than month now.  I have been meaning to update, and yet, it keeps slipping my mind.

Not because I am busy.  Not because there are so many other things to do, even though there is.


More because quite simply put, there isn’t much to say.

The protests and indignation I was worried would build over this rule haven’t come.

The anger or the sneakiness I wondered about hasn’t happened.

The letters to the principals, the “how dare you” statements never uttered.

Are some kids annoyed?  Probably.

Are some kids leaving them in their pockets? Probably.

Are some kids hoping to go back to the old way?  Probably.

But are they mad?  Outraged?  Feeling like their rights as a learner somehow having been violated – nope.

In fact, every day we have our routine down.  Most kids leave their phone in their locker.  Some in the bin in our classroom.  After the bell, I give a final reminder which inevitably leads to a few more phones in the bin and then we are off.  Focused as much as we can be in May in 7th grade on the learning that is happening.

Yet, what I have noticed has been small.  A few changes here and there; more face to face conversation within our classroom walls.  Less tense faces.  More presence.  Less worry.

It turns out that we didn’t need more cloud for more engagement, but needed more presence.  More here.  More now.

And today I noticed how several kids even forgot to grab their phone, only showing up later in the day to claim it once they realized it was missing.  Some of these kids were kids I have had to remind to put their phone away in the past, and here they come several class periods later, glad that their phone is still there waiting but realizing that perhaps it wasn’t that big of a deal anyway.  Perhaps not having their phone was not the end of the world.

And so we will continue until the very last day.  Separated from something that sometimes feels like it contains our entire world.  Given a moment to breathe that doesn’t involve notifications, likes, or needing to record every moment of our day.  A space to take risks, be present, and focus on each other, with just a small change in our days.

I started this experiment worried about the mental health of us all as we become more and more addicted to our phones.  But I also worried that it would cause resentment and anger, a sense of distrust in our community, that I was yet another adult who didn’t care about my students.  It turns out that my fear was unfounded.  That asking students to leave their phones out as they bring their hearts in was a step in the right direction.   In the end,  it turned out that we really didn’t need them for much anyway, who knew?

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.


3 thoughts on “Lessons from a #PhoneFree Classroom”

  1. Thought provoking quote:
    ‘Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.”
    – Steven Spielberg

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