A policy of distraction

Published 10:36 pm Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cellphones will become commonplace in classrooms at all three public high schools after Suffolk’s School Board approved a policy last week that allows students to use them during instructional time.

Cellphones can be a major distraction to other daily tasks. You are not supposed to text while driving, and studies have said that even talking on the phone while driving is dangerous. Even the buzzing of a phone on vibrate in a quiet room can be a distraction. So why is it OK use cellphones while learning?

Since the advent of smartphones in particular, I have found I can’t sit still for long without wanting to check Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Any time I have a question, I want to Google it or check Wikipedia immediately.

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I definitely think that technology has a place in the classroom. Students these days have grown up with computers — and cellphones — and don’t know life any other way. I think it is a good way to try to reach students and make learning a fun experience. But I am not sure allowing them to have their cellphones in class is the way to go. I imagine it will be pretty hard to control the use to make sure it is just for class work.

When I was in college, it was becoming more and more commonplace for people to have cellphones. The phones would routinely go off in class, and these weren’t even the smart kind. Texting was not prevalent at the time either. I can only imagine how professors feel these days, with students playing games, posting on social media and doing anything but pay attention in class.

Students will be allowed to use smartphones at school for things like accessing the Web for research, utilizing calendars and receiving alerts, and for receiving, completing and submitting assessments.

The School Board’s decision Thursday will give teachers discretion over student cellphone use in their classrooms.

The move comes after the board last October approved a pilot program at King’s Fork High School that former principal Suzanne Rice had introduced.

Many students have cellphones so parents can easily communicate with them. I am sure parents want to know where their kids are and what they are doing as much as possible and may support allowing their children to have phones at school.

After hearing from principals and an assistant principal on how portable electronic devices are the way of the future, board members voted unanimously in their favor.

School boards across the country — including elsewhere in Hampton Roads — have loosened restrictions on student cellphone use. Here’s hoping that Suffolk’s public high schools can strike the right balance with welcoming technology into the classroom without the added distraction.