I have fought the good fight against my students using their mobile phones and smart devices in my classroom. I am tired, and the truth is I am beaten. Besides all of that, I use my phone for organization, productivity, idea curation and my learning. If a phone can be a tool for me to use, why not them?
This year my principal opened our back to school professional development with a quick game of Kahoot to educate us on data about 21st century jobs and the characteristics and skills that our students will need to be employable. While this information was not new to me, it did inspire me to develop a new attitude towards students and their devices and that led to intense brainstorming about what I was really, actually cool with my students doing with their phones and what I was not willing to allow.
When I finally got out of all the meetings and trainings and had a chance to sit down in front of my computer to really think this whole thing through, I decided that my heart's desire was that my students could learn to meet their known needs using their smart devices without it becoming a a thing. I went into my "Mom Mode." This is the state of mind I used when dealing with my own daughter who is fiercely independent. She responds best when I present the parameters of a new privilege along with the consequences, the reasoning behind it all, and then leave the choices up to her. In that environment, she usually does the right thing because the freedom is more important to her than the risk of losing it. That's what I want my students to feel about their phones / devices in the classroom. I want the privilege of access to be more valuable than the desire to get lost in conversations with friends, twerking videos or taking 75 nearly identical selfies for Snapchat. Using all of my personal parenting experience I came up with an agreement that I required my students to read and sign this year. I call it Sra. Lenord's Digital Use Contract and you can download the Word version by clicking on the link.
I know that this isn't the magic bullet that will make all students comply 100% of the time. Reality is that students are going to probably push the limits of the agreement even when they sign it, say how brilliant it is to my face only to stare down into their crotches smiling to send that last text to their BFFs, but the psychology behind the agreement is more important to me than the rules. What I would like to think is the genius behind this contract is the message I am sending. Cell phones are not bad. Heck, even I take a quick glance at Facebook or personal text message as an electronic brain break in a faculty meeting or in church. Ideally, I just want them to start thinking about time and place. I also want them to pick up some new strategies for using a really valuable tool, but more than anything, I want to put an end to the power struggles that take place over their devices that are sometimes more about the teacher exerting control for the sake of control. SO WHAT the phone is visible. If you can see it and they are not using why bug out about it? Our kids have so many horror stories about teachers and cell phones.
The immediate results
I passed the contract out Friday, discussed it with my students and then asked them to sign it. A few students asked to show it to their other teachers. A few other students thought it was brilliant, and a couple of students pulled out their phones and lost time, BUT... all I had to do was quietly approach them and say their names and they immediately and sheepishly smiled and stopped their inappropriate digital use.
Instead, apologies and compliance.
I think we are on to something...
Happy Coaching, Friends!