In our classrooms, so many of us have them, so many of us fight them, and so many of us embrace them. At some point we have to teach how to use them. I'm talking about cell phones.
Yes, you read that right. I said how to use them. We know our students are often more savvy than we are when it comes to technology. However, as professionals we are (presumably) more savvy about acceptable workplace behavior.
Anyone who has ever Googled “cell phones in the workplace” or “workplace cell phone policies”, knows that this is a global problem. Employers all over the world are trying to navigate how to manage their employees’ use of phones during work hours. Our students are these future employees. As educators, we need to teach them the who, what, where, when, why, and how’s of phones in the workplace. At the very least, we need to model this behavior as our classrooms are our students’ workplace.
This brings me to the beginning of my school year. I knew I wanted to address this issue, but I was unsure of how. Plenty of pictures had been circulating social media, such as this one, as suggestions of how to handle phones in the classroom.
However, I didn’t feel this strategy would solve any of my problems, but I was intrigued by the foundation of the concept. That is when I turned to the TpT community to reach out for help.
Through our discussion, I was able to bounce around ideas, and finally came to this amazing lesson plan.
Day 1: I told students to leave their phone on their desks. (Normally they are supposed to have them put away.) I told them that I was doing an experiment, and that I was not going to take them or secretly give them a detention for having them out. What they didn’t know, was that my student teacher was collecting data on who did anything with their phone.
Day 2, Part A: Without much introduction, I showed the class this video of a famous Marshmallow Experiment. I can’t do the video justice, but in a nutshell, the experiment linked kids’ ability to have delayed gratification and self-control with future success. We segued from this video into a discussion about the need for self-control with cell phones and how this needs to be a learned skill. We shared the data from the day before and they were shocked by how much they treated their phone like the video demonstrated. This became a very lively discussion and I drew upon situations that have happened in my classroom. I gave anecdotes of what has happened to students’ attention span and comprehension of the material as a result of the cell phone distraction.
Day 2, Part B: As the conversation wrapped up, I told the students my new cell phone policy (see below), and all seemed to understand the rationale.
Days 3 – 7: We carried on as ‘business as usual’. It was so amazing to see students choose to put their phones up and to choose to eliminate that distraction. There was a lot of positive peer pressure during this time. “Guys! Don’t forget to put your phones up! Remember the marshmallow?” What they didn’t know is during this time, we were collecting data period by period. We posted percentages for each period but didn’t tell them what it was about. It drove them nuts to not know what this data meant.
Day 8: On this day (about a week into the lesson), I finally revealed the meaning behind the data. I was collecting percentages of students who put their phone up. I told students that now that everyone knew what it was for, that it was going to become a class competition for highest participation. This went on for about a month. It was so interesting to see how it played out. Most classes had minimal participation. However, two classes were neck and neck and finally one pulled away as the leader. I’m proud to say, they were rewarded with a pizza party right before winter break.
I work in a very data driven district. Therefore, I wanted to be sure that my message was really getting through to the students. So I surveyed the winning class. Click here for some of their amazing responses. The responses gave me that ‘warm fuzzy’ teacher feeling of ‘they get it!’
As we all know, what our students remember from our classrooms is not always the standards, or the quadratic formula, or the periodic table. Rather it's the life lessons they pick up while learning these standards. It is my hope that when they go to work, they remember the marshmallow experiment, and think twice before they engage with their phone while at work.
What is your take on phones in the classroom or workplace? What do you think is a reasonable policy for both school and work?
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