A Call for Change
By Isabelle Thompson
Across the board, Novato High School has a zero tolerance policy for cell phone use in the classrooms, but as both students and teachers are aware, these are unrealistic terms. Integration of technology into the classroom is inevitable. Even now, as the use of computers, laptops, and portable devices in classrooms are being encouraged across the country, teachers are no longer the only source of information for students’ learning.
Novato High School is already seeing changes. Report cards are now online, students are expected to keep track of class assignments through Google classroom, and teachers will often request students make online presentations, participate in surveys, or do research during class time.
The antiquated rule book of Novato High hasn’t seemed to adapt to the fact that cell phones are now a big part of classroom life, and by failing to address this, a different set of rules has been instituted by each individual teacher. A simple revision may help students and teachers avoid confusion over the matter and come together to use the technology as a learning tool.
The Novato 2015-1016 rulebook explicitly states, “cell phones and ipods (ear phones must be put away and not in view) are not to be used or visible on campus during the regular, academic school day.”
The only exception to this rule includes legitimate, documented medical reasons. If any teacher or employee of Novato High finds a student violating this policy, it is their obligation to report it to the assistant principal, upon which he or she may assign a number of offenses, four of which result in “one day of out of school suspension and retention of the device until the end of the school year.” Yet most students may not even be aware of this because practically any classroom you walk into will have at least one person on their phone.
Reasons for this rule seem logical enough, as many of us have experienced the powerful lure of social media, the Internet, and other distractions. However, with other schools increasing their tech capabilities in preparation for the real world, the benefit of using in class technology to the advantage of the students seems to outweigh the possible distractions.
“Technological competency is a requirement for entry into the global economy — and the faster we embrace it, the more we maintain and secure our economic leadership in the 21st century,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the Marin Independent Journal.
Many teachers have become more tolerant of cell phones in class, seeming to have made an unspoken shift in policy that focuses on how to better use this technology as a classroom tool. They have acknowledged that students, despite the rules, have grown accustomed to using their phones in class, and the best thing is to gear them toward using them to their advantage.
“If you are used to using your cell phone, and you’ve received no proper instruction in the use of it, then you’ll just use it inappropriately,” said Casimir Adler-Ivanbrook, an Economics teacher at Novato High. “But if you’ve been trained to use it appropriately, then you’ll use it appropriately.”
“I feel like it is an addiction that we can’t completely conquer,” agreed Josh Rosenberg, Novato High journalism teacher. “Students are going to find a way to look at their phones. So if they can do it in a way that’s enhancing their learning experience, that is going to be a goal of many teachers.”
Novato High has a number of Google Chromebooks circulating around the school to make technological integration possible. However, the amount of school resources would skyrocket if cell phones were considered to be a classroom tool.
Students seemed to be very surprised that the cell phone policy has not yet adapted to the technologies of this generation.
“If I need to look something up or complete an online assignment, Google Chromebooks aren’t always available so I will just use my phone,” said Lily Munsee, a senior at Novato High.
“As an art student, I often need to use photos off the internet in order to get proper proportions or perspective that I want to incorporate into my piece,” said Daniella Ingargiola, another senior.
Overall, the outdated rule book is lacking in consistency, leaving students behind in the technological world and placing them at a disadvantage in terms of comprehensive use for reasons beyond school use.
“If teachers as a whole enforce that policy with uniformity or consistency, then that policy will be enforced and students will learn when to use a cell phone in a way that the teacher feels will benefit their education,” Adler-Ivanbrook added.
Novato High art teacher Taylor Mancini also seemed to agree with Adler-Ivanbrook.
“I think it makes sense to have positive policies for positive cell phone use in place so that it’s used in a way that benefits you and benefits me as a teacher,” she said.
Simply stating that cell phones are prohibited in the Novato High rule book creates a lot of confusion when a student is reprimanded for being on his or her phone, when many teachers have made an exception to this rule. If the rule book were modified to incorporate cell phone use according to active class use, as phones are often used, then students could better understand what an appropriate time to use their cell phone might be. This would create consistency within an uncertain spectrum.