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Educators Talk 'Balancing Act' of Phones, Classroom Tech

Staff at Daviess County and Owensboro public school districts in Kentucky say kids need smartphones to call parents in case of an emergency, but there is a time and a place to use them as instructional tools.

student distracted on smartphone
(TNS) — Technological devices are unavoidable during this day and age, and while cellphones, laptops and tablets do have the potential to become disruptive for students, educators say they have become crucial learning tools.

Whether or not cellphones are allowed in the classroom largely depends on the teacher. Some teachers allow them, but ask that they remain in pockets or backpacks for the duration of lessons. Likewise, punishments for misuse of devices while in class vary.

Serious violations of school-issued devices can result in students losing their rights to them for the school year, depending on the offense. There are some instances in which students may also have devices confiscated after repeated efforts to quell disruptions caused by them, but educators say they aren't in the business of revoking students' access to their phones.

Jared Revlett, Owensboro Public Schools spokesman, said one of the reasons confiscation of devices is only used as a last resort and in extreme circumstances is that students and staff members having cellphones on them is a safety issue.

"In the event that there is an emergency situation, the first thing parents want to do is know their kids are safe," he said.

Parents have the right to know their kids are safe, and many provide phones to their children specifically for emergency events, he said.

Aaron Yeiser, Daviess County Public Schools instructional technology coordinator, said technology in classrooms has to be a balancing act. There is a time and place to take advantage of a smartphone's potential.

"However, there also needs to be times when the learning environment protects students from their distractions," he said. "We trust our teachers to navigate those tricky waters to know when students need to use them versus save them away for another time."

Technology is what has allowed learning to continue throughout the pandemic, and educators have also used devices as additional resources for classroom learning. For example, instructional tech has allowed some teachers to move away from traditional multiple-choice questions and worksheets and allow students to use creative products to express what they have learned, he said.

"With the number of apps available, smartphones have extraordinary potential for leveraging learning and application," Yeiser said.

Likewise, Revlett said a lot of teachers have begun incorporating smartphones and other tech devices into their classroom. There are even some lessons that require, or are enhanced, by using these devices. Namely, there are some star-gazing apps that teachers use when teaching astronomy or lessons on the solar system.

There are also lessons that take place exclusively on augmented reality, or AR, devices, that can allow students to view the Pyramids of Giza, for instance, Revlett said.

"There are certainly positives and negatives for students having access to smartphones at all times," he said.

©2022 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.