Report from Louisiana: Locking Up Cell Phones

The new school year is now underway and with it come all of the typical classroom management issues that frustrate many teachers, especially at the middle and high school level.

One of those problems is cell phones. Since the cell phone has become as common as the Number 2 pencil teachers have been struggling to either incorporate the technology into the lesson or ban the devices altogether. There seems to be no middle ground as most teenagers simply can not deny the lure of social media or games on the phone.
It’s so much more entertaining to participate in an ongoing game of pool on the phone with a friend than listen to that history lecture.

In Bossier Parish, Louisiana, one high school English teacher used the first day of school to conduct an experiment: “Students measured how often they received notifications on their cell phones, from text messages, to phone calls, to news alerts, to Snapchat pings,” and by the end of the day there had been 868 distractions, or notifications, from student devices.

How can teachers compete against this?

Benton High School in Bossier City, Louisiana has found a way. The school purchased Yondr pouches, such as those used at some concerts. At the beginning of the school day students are required to put their phones in the pouch and there it stays until the end of the day when the pouches are unlocked as students leave the building. Students rent the pouches for the year and retain possession of the pouch/phone all day.

While teachers celebrate this development, students are nonplussed. Many feel like they are being punished for the sins of others.

As of now, two Bossier Parish schools are participating in this experiment, but teachers across the parish are hoping it catches on. The cell phone has moved beyond a classroom management problem. Many students pull out the phone and check messages simply as an automatic reflex these days and hey, while there, let’s take a cute selfie, and check that email, and check that new YouTube video real quick.

I’m curious to see how this pilot program works. I’m not clear on what happens if a student is caught with a second phone; many students have more than one phone and routinely carry a “throwdown phone” in case a teacher tries to take their device up.

It would all be much more ideal if students just had the willpower to keep the devices put away, but we are talking about teenagers and when many adults can’t even do this, how can we expect kids to?