Tag Archives: Social Media

Mobile Phone Shutdown

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

During the first few weeks before my new campus opened, many people wanted to know what the mobile phone policy would be for students, especially those students living on-campus.

A decision was made to allow teachers to set their classroom norms, and to give the students an opportunity to use technology responsibly. This very open policy would be applied, and results would be evaluated.

The first month of school yielded some very interesting results, and eventually lead to a big change not only in policy, but also in campus culture.

The Real Issue

The assumption most adults and educators make is that students will waste time while using their devices in class.

The truth is that students using mobile phones outside of the classroom, is in fact a severe waste of time compared to the time lost in the classroom. Policies focusing on controlling students and preventing them from enjoying some form of entertainment while in class, are missing the core issue(s).

The real issue with students who are engaged in very high levels of screen-time, is that the engagement negates their time to socialize. The device, ironically, pushes them further apart from one another, even if they are using the device to communicate.

Classroom use of devices can be very beneficial. Teachers can task students and keep them working and interacting, while socializing.

During the first month of observation, when left to their own prerogative, students in social situations would default to the use of social media apps and free or freemium games instead of talking to one another.

The students were not engaged in deep discussions, academic information exchange, or even conversations about making plans for their weekends. They were just engaged in activities that had a short and very shallow feedback loop.

My personal observations were combined with others, and everyone agreed that we did not want a campus culture that encouraged students to not socialize; to sit alone and stare at a screen; and that seemed to push curiosity to the floor.

The Policy and Procedure 

Writing a policy to ban devices is not easy. The task seems easy, but if the policy is to be enforceable, then it has to be well thought out. Whenever anything is taken away, a negative impact occurs somewhere else.

The policy itself is simple, “No use of mobile phones on campus during academic hours.”

The policy must be simple. I often fall into the trap of making options, but options are difficult to manage. Options are difficult to explain. Options are difficult to translate to students if they are not native English language speakers.

The policy should be followed by a positive exception. In other words, “When and where can students use their devices ? ” This was clearly defined, so that students and parents could plan on a regular communication pattern after academic hours, but before study hall (remember most of these are boarding students).

Finally, the consequences have to be mapped out clearly. With any set of consequences a negative impact can occur to someone, or some place, if policies are planned haphazardly.

The school found two locations with staff who were already managing student discipline. This created a distributed and nominal impact on those people working in the offices. There was no additional staff or equipment required to implement the policy.

The consequences created by the policy writing team were clear and strict:

  • For the 1st offense, your phone will be confiscated and withheld until the conclusion of the following academic day. This will be logged on PowerSchool for your parents and advisor to see.
  • For the 2nd offense, your phone will be confiscated for 3 days, a call will go home to your parents, and the incident will be logged into PowerSchool.
  • For a 3rd offense, your phone will be taken for an entire week, your parents will be called, and the phone will need to be picked up and collected by your parents in person.

The Aftermath

So far nothing. I wanted to have some type of amazing story to tell, but nothing bad has happened. I have asked around 60 students how they are doing without their devices.

They have all said that it is not a big deal for them, they have a time to use them, and they do not want any instances logged into PowerSchool for their parents to read.

In addition, the number of devices confiscated is actually lower than it was before the policy. We still have some classes using mobile phones as cameras everyday, but outside of those classes, I have not see any students breaking the rules.

Of course, they are breaking the rules sometimes, but not lunch. Not at assembly. And not during those other daily opportunities where students meet in groups and socialize.

A week ago I walked into assembly, and students were playing music, laughing, and talking. It was loud, and I was extremely pleased.

Social Media: A Dog’s Story

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” ~Isaac Newton

A friend of mine from Brasilia is known for habitually reposting to Facebook, on behalf of desperate dog owners, photos of missing dogs. Gisela’s hope is that neighborhood residents will recognize the dogs in the photos and reunite these beloved, missing canines with their owners.

As a fellow dog owner, I quietly grieve for owners each time I see one of these missing dog announcements. This feeling of grief was no different when a posting of a cute, elderly dog with a broken ear and a lazy eye appeared in my newsfeed. What was different about this posting, however, was that my name was linked to this posting with the following message: “The dog has a tag that appears to be from the United States. Barry, with your connection to the international community, could you reach out to your contacts?” I would of course reach out, but, as a busy workday was about to begin, I made a mental note to send messages in the early evening.

While the day did turn out to be very busy and productive, it was about to end on a high note as I made my way to visit the after-school chess activity. While watching two five-year-old students discover the nuances associated with the beautiful game of chess, I noticed one of the students was in a lackluster, almost despondent mood. When I asked the student if anything was wrong, he turned to me and lamented that his dog Crawford was missing and not been home for nearly a week.

It was then that I recalled the Facebook posting from the morning. While it seemed highly unlikely for there to be such a coincidence of circumstances, I went ahead and showed the student the Facebook posting of the missing dog with a broken ear and lazy eye. Upon seeing the photo, the student beamed an enormous smile and shouted, Crawford!!!”

After a series of phone calls and messages, Crawford was finally reunited with his owners later that evening.

The events of the day served as an important reminder of the inherent power associated with social networks, particularly when used in an ethical, meaningful, and purposeful manner. It is clear that the way we communicate, connect, problem solve, and learn has been forever changed. While we need to continue addressing the challenges of social media, the potential for creative and positive change derived from the harnessing and application of seemingly endless resources offers a unique set of tools to solve problems and ensure a better future.

Isaac Newton’s iconic quote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” refers to Newton’s gratitude for the contributions of those who have preceded him. In today’s context, I wonder if Newton would have considered the “shoulders of giants” to also include the learning and understanding resulting from the use of technology to exponentially increase levels of collaboration, networking, and sharing?

If social networks can be used to rally a community’s resources towards reuniting Crawford with his family, it is exciting to imagine how these same networks and associated resources will continue to redefine not only our daily lives but the paradigm of traditional education and learning. It is the challenge of educators to determine how these new technologies will be employed to improve the learning process.

There is no doubt we are living through a fascinating inflection point in the history of educational development in addition to our understanding of how we learn. Nevertheless, through all of this change, we must never lose sight of the “why?” and “to what end?” questions. I am confident that Crawford would approve of this guiding principle as he again basks in the warmth of his home and loving family.

IMG_2101
_________________________________________________

Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at www.barrydequanne.com.

_________________________________________________

Featured image: cc licensed ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 ) flickr photo by Tarek Harbi: https://www.flickr.com/photos/53813549@N08/15090632281