Q&A: Teachers Providing A Positive Side To The Phone Ban Bill

Find out about the positive side to this bill, and how it can help students
Senate Act Bill 185 will remove all communication devices. Forcing schools to come up with new policies.
Senate Act Bill 185 will remove all communication devices. Forcing schools to come up with new policies.
Yoslen Santana

Next year Indiana students will have to put their cell phones away in class, under the Senate Enrolled Act 185, which was signed into law by governor Eric Holcomb and will take effect this summer. The bill is unclear as it does not provide a set of rules to follow, but instead lets the districts make up the rules. The only requirement is that in some way communication devices are no longer allowed in class. The set of procedures, enforcement, and disciplinary action is all up to districts to decide. Many teachers have different opinions on the bill.

What is your opinion on the Phone Ban Bill?

Chinese Teacher Chunmei Guan: Opinions on the phone ban bill would likely vary among high school teachers depending on their own experiences and perspectives on the role of technology in education. As far as I know, in the USA, Florida, Oklahoma, Vermont, Kansas have started the “ Phone-Free Schools” legislation. In the world,  phones are banned in Italy, Portugal, China, France and Finland. I could feel the decrease of students’ and teachers’ “ mental health” which were caused by the phones. In one word, I am for the Phone Ban Bill if it could clarify how to ban the phones and how to implement and enforce it in the classroom for protecting the students’ safety and improving their learning of technology, especially AI.

English teacher Emily Graham: Students, like all of us, are no doubt distracted by cell phones. There are other disadvantages as well, such as cyberbullying and the ability to record fights at school. I am also concerned that some students who have a large number of responsibilities outside of school would be hindered by not having access to a phone during the day. On the other hand, students need to learn how to handle the risks that come with technology and how to manage those risks.  I would like to see more research that shows if student performance actually increases  in schools that have banned cell phones before I decide where I sit on this topic. 

Math Teacher Erica Plutat: I think that this new law could be beneficial. I try to run my classroom this way. I will tell my students that the class is run like a job. If you put in the energy and effort up front, give me the first 45 min of class then you will be rewarded after. Whether it is the weekend, in class work time, time at the end to listen to music, check for a snap chat etc.. I find it like a job because I can’t just sit around on my phone all day long. If I come in and do my job then I can have free time after school or check my phone during lunch or have a weekend free. I think if we push for this then the bill could be a positive implementation.

English Teacher Jitka Nelson: I need to preface that I grew up in the pre-technology era, and personally, I can go without it for long periods of time. As a matter of fact, I turn off and put away my cell phone when I arrive at LHS around 7:30 a.m. and turn it back on when I am ready to leave school in the afternoon. That means that personally I do not have an issue with the new law.

English Teacher Jessica Kranz: I see both sides of this ban. As a parent, communicating with my daughter during the day regarding scheduling changes or other issues that arise during the day, is essential. Students in the middle school and below do not have access to email outside of the school corporation, so if my kiddos have a question during the day, they can email me- I have that luxury- but, so many students do not have that same benefit. In that sense, phones would be very helpful for students. I also see that coaches may message students through platforms like Remind or Band throughout the day- again, very helpful. But, so many phone issues are not with students texting family members or coaches. The issues arise when students are relentlessly on social media, using their phones for distractions, and in general, diminishing their focus on school.

What effects will this bill have on students?

Plutat: I think at first it will be hard on a lot of students because they are so used to being on their phones (texting, scrolling, listening to music). Changing routine is always hard especially if it is something comforting that you are used to doing. But in the end I think if we hold a balance of time, when you can be on your phone and when you can not, then it will end up having a positive effect on students. Not only will it hold a similar pattern to life or a job, when you have time to focus and work vs. when you have free time, but I do think that having students not be distracted by phones during instructional time will cause many educational benefits. I think it could cause better focus on tasks, more attention to detail, and overall more content being covered in a class. This could then help in fostering more focused and educated students, meaning help them feel smarter and better prepared to enter the workforce.

Graham: My hope is that if this bill passes, students find that they are in fact able to focus better without their cell phones on hand at all times and that their achievement increases as a result.

Nelson: As a seasoned educator, I believe that the learning in the classroom occurs only when the student’s frontal cortex part of the brain is connected and engaged with the material being presented. When the brain is connected with what is happening on the phone, minimal or no learning is guaranteed. So, I think that disconnecting from distractions and eliminating multitasking will only benefit the students’ academic progress.

Guan: Banning phones in high school classrooms could have several effects on students’ lives from a high school teacher’s perspective: increased focus. Without the distraction of phones, students may be more engaged and focused during class time. This could lead to better academic performance and a more productive learning environment. There are also improved social interactions. With phones out of the picture, students might be more inclined to interact with each other during breaks and free time, fostering stronger social connections and communication skills. There is reduced academic dishonesty. Banning phones could help mitigate cheating and academic dishonesty, as students would not have easy access to online resources or communication with peers during exams or assignments. Finally, enhanced classroom management. Teachers may find it easier to manage their classrooms without the constant distraction of students using their phones. This could lead to more efficient lesson delivery and better classroom dynamics.

As a teacher will this make your life easier or harder?

Plutat: As a teacher, of course it would be easier to not deal with phones at all. But I have a phone, I know how fun it can be to scroll through Instagram and TikTok, I know how much I like to text or message on Snapchat, and I like listening to music. But I also know that I can’t do these things when I should be doing my job. I can’t scroll through social media when I should be teaching, I can’t listen to music during meetings, and I can’t text all day long. Just as I come in and do my job (and check my phone during passing period, or scroll during lunch, or listen to music after school) I would like to ask students to do the same, give their focus and energy and effort during instructional time and then check their phones the last few minutes of class, scroll during passing period and lunch, and listen to music after school. I think this would definitely make my life easier. Just to know that we can all focus and get the job done first and then enjoy phones in our free time.

As a teacher do you see phones as a distraction in your class?

Guan: To be honest, phone use is a big issue in my classroom. I bought a 36 pocket caddy which is used to hold students’ phones. I called it the Phone Prison. Each class needs to find  several policemen or policewomen, who will be patrolling in the classroom. If they find the phone, their team will be charged by losing 20 country points or classroom money. I have to repeat these every day in every classroom, now I am tired of this. It is hard to engage a student who puts the earbuds in their ears and has a smartwatch and smart phone with them. They could not focus on learning. There is data that said about 97% of the students in the US are using their smartphones, which is a big challenge for the online safety of the students and their mental health. I am really worried about my students’ eyesight, hearing and mental health. There are some cases in China and South Korea, where some students attacked their parents or teachers for taking away their phones. Some teenagers even lost their eyesight and hearing forever, which is a tragedy. I hope the school administration team could implement the stiffer rules to help teachers to implement or enforce the ban of the phones. This bill could not rely on the teachers by themselves. A village could educate a kid. Parents, school administrators and teachers need to collaborate together and find a solution to help our students in using their phones in a smart way. 

Kranz: I do see phones as distractions. My policy is just to be polite: no video recording of other students without consent, and not using it while I am teaching.

Do you see this bill doing more harm than good?

Kranz: I am torn. I know we didn’t have 24/7 access to phones when I was in high school. I also know that the world has changed. Have phones helped propel those changes? Yes, and not always for the best. This is truly a divided issue and I don’t think we can fully answer its impact yet.

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