One School’s Cell Phone Ban Experiment

Most of what I have read about schools trying to regulate or even ban cell phones during class says it’s pretty much a hopeless task. Students are going to check their phones on the sly and the dominant suggestion has been that, instead of banning or regulating them, one should instead modify one’s pedagogy to include them in the classroom routine.

Much of this discussion has included the trend to move away from the “sage on the stage” model of teaching, which relies on professorial lectures, and turn to the “guide on the side” model, which emphasizes in-class small group discussions on topics that students are presumed to have studied prior to showing up in class, with the professor making occasional short commentaries and circulating among the groups to elicit their discussion points. Cell phones in the latter context are used as research tools by the students, a laudatory practice, although the students are no doubt checking emails and social media sites at the same time.

One small, private boarding school in Massachusetts has taken the road less traveled by instituting a total ban on phones in class for both students and professors. The school felt that cell phone use in class was “splintering” the school’s otherwise close-knit sense of community. Despite some initial negative reactions, the school stuck to its guns and at the end of the term, it seems that the students had come around to accepting the policy and even finding positive things to say about it.

During the Covid pandemic, electronic media replaced person-to-person contact and so using smartphones became widespread. Once in-person classes resumed, however, it seemed that cell phone usage had become entrenched.

The article relates how a top school administrator reacted: “Mr. Kalapos realized something needed to be done late last year after a student live-streamed a physical altercation. Watched on social media by many students, the fight became the talk of the school. He and other administrators began discussing a ban. Many students thought that the school wouldn’t actually do it—and that stripping phones from teens was unrealistic.”

I think this article has much to say about this alternative approach. See what you think.

Here’s the link to the story from the Wall Street Journal.

About mediainmind

Education: BFA in Painting & Sculpture from California College of the Arts (Oakland); Executive MBA in Executive Management from the Peter F. Drucker & Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at the Claremont Graduate University (Claremont); MA and PhD in Media Psychology from the Fielding Graduate University (Santa Barbara). Experience: Over 40 years experience in marketing, advertising, and public relations on the client and agency sides of the business; for-profit and nonprofit, as well as government. Special Expertise: The interface between human behavior and the media. It's all about "media in mind." View all posts by mediainmind

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