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Phones in Classrooms are Eliminated to Avoid Distractions


By Sydney Ellison

The students walk in the room. Right away they know what to do: phones get put in the pouch. It’s the longstanding phone policy of teacher Donna Malkmus. At the end of class, students may get their phone back in their possession. This is how life works in Room 182.

“If their phone is a distraction, you need to take that away,” Malkmus said. “It shouldn’t be an option.”

With notifications continuously popping up on screens, distractions can be constant. Texts from friends and a tweet from a celeb are as tempting as candy for some.

“They don’t have the discipline to ignore it and to keep concentrating on the task at hand,” teacher Amy Barlow said. “And so if they answer that message, they may miss a very important point.”

In a study done by the University of Chicago, they conclude that smartphones reduce available cognitive capacity. That means the brain retains less information at any given moment when a phone is present. This can have disastrous effects on a student’s grades. Tests rely on memory and understanding; with a distracting phone out, it can be easy to lose focus.

“As much as we would like to multitask we aren’t really very good at it,” teacher Kim Landman said. “So, if you’re on your phone, you aren’t learning.”

Having a phone policy on the stricter side has use outside the classroom as well. According to Malkmus, her husband worked in military security and at no point was he allowed to bring his phone in the building. A “no phones in class” policy can help prepare students for those situations later in life.

“[Students] need to realize that once you get out in the world, unless you’re gonna work for yourself, you’re working for somebody else and that person is going to have some sort of policy about phones,” teacher Kim Coil said.

Barlow, Coil and Landman all have memories of repeated abuses of the times they allow phones in class. Landman describes one situation of a student complaining of wasting phone battery when they were doing an activity using phones in class. All three mention seeing students doing some activity on their phone rather than doing schoolwork.

“At first when they started integrating technology into the classroom, I thought it was a really great idea,” Barlow said. “However, what I’ve noticed over the years is that it’s usually not used for its intended purposes.”