Schools around the world are struggling to integrate modern technology like cell phones into existing instructional routines. Their stances towards that technology range from total proscription – no cell phones allowed from first bell to last – to unlimited usage. Both of those policies seem misguided to me for the same reason: they don’t offer students help, coaching, or feedback in the complex skills of focus and self-regulation.
Enter Tony Riehl’s cell phone policy, which I love for many reasons, not least of which because it isn’t exclusively a cell phone policy. It’s a distractions policy.
What Tony’s “distraction box” does very well:
- It makes the positive statement that “we’re in class to work with as few distractions as possible.” It isn’t a negative statement about any particular distraction. Great mission statement.
- Specifically, it doesn’t single out cell phones. The reality is that cell phones are only one kind of technology students will bring to school, and digital technology is only one distractor out of many. Tony notes that “these items have changed over time, but include fast food toys, bouncy balls, Rubik’s cubes, bobble heads, magic cards, and the hot items now are the fidget cubes and fidget spinners.”
- It acknowledges differences between students. What distracts you might not distract me. My cell phone distracts my learning so it goes in the box. Your cell phone helps you learn so it stays on your desk.
- It builds rather than erodes the relationship between teachers and students. Cell phone policies often encourage teachers to become detectives and students to learn to evade them. None of this does any good for the working relationship between teachers and students. Meanwhile, Tony describes a policy that has “changed the atmosphere of my room,” a policy in which students and teachers are mutually respected and mutually invested.
Read his post. Great, right? How would you build on his work?