Schools crack down as cellphones proliferate

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Capital News Service
LANSING – Most school districts in Michigan continue to confiscate electronic devices used in classrooms, although 78 percent of U.S. teens now have a cellphone, almost half of which are smartphones.
That means 37 percent of all teens carry access to social networking sites in their pockets, purses and backpacks, up from just 23 percent in 2011, according the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Peter Broderick, assistant director of communications at the Michigan Association of School Boards, said district policies primarily determines the penalty for using cellphones in class, followed by individual school policies and teacher policies. There is no statewide law regarding cellphones in classrooms.

West Ottawa High School’s student handbook notes, “Cellphones are personal media devices that may be used on campus, but are prohibited from being on or used during class time, unless deemed educationally appropriate by the teacher.”
Students can use cellphones between classes and during lunch.
High schools in the Big Rapids and Grand Rapids districts have the same policy. Violations will result in confiscation without warning.
A parent or guardian may need to reclaim the confiscated cellphone. Repeated violations could lead to suspension or confiscation until the end of the school day or year.
Violations at Grand Rapids high schools could lead to loss of participation in extracurricular activities and school sponsored events, according to the district’s handbook.
At Holland High School, cellphones must be turned off from the start of first period until the end of last period. That includes between classes and lunch.
Pew reported one-quarter of teens are “cell-mostly” Internet users, who mostly go online using their phones.
More than 70 percent of teens use social networking sites. However, researchers say there is no correlation between a student’s participation in social networking online and his or her grade point average, Pew reported.
Researchers say social networking on smartphones could support academic work. For example, it can offer help with homework or communication for group projects.
However, researchers also say it could detract from academic work, offering an alternative to school obligations and thus their effects could cancel each other out.
Deborah Vriend Van Duinen, an assistant professor of secondary education at Hope College, said, “I require students to have a Twitter account. We tweet about our class and readings. I think social media has to start being addressed in high schools.”
Students can use their phones to Tweet their ideas directly to a projector, an effective way to encourage student participation, Van Duinen said.
Van Duinen said she wants her students to use Facebook, Skype, Twitter and Google Docs to communicate about projects, as do other professors.
“High schools shouldn’t just be adding social media to their curriculums, but teachers need to change the way they teach,” Van Duinen said.
In an ever-changing technological world, teachers need to grab students’ attention through phones and social media, Van Duinen said.
Black River High School college advisor and science teacher Cessie Wright said, “I think there’s a lot of potential. With any kind of social media, there has to be a screening. We don’t want our students seeing anything inappropriate.”
Wright said she allows students to use phones as timers, but not to call, text or go online during class.

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