At San Lorenzo High School, students deposit their phones in a locked pouch for the day, a practice school leaders say has improved learning, behavior, and social interactions.
“It has absolutely changed our entire school climate and culture,” says principal Allison Silvestri. Teachers at the San Francisco area school say that they have more time to teach without the distraction of phones, according to NBC San Diego
. “Things that I’ve done for years now take 10–15 minutes fewer to complete the assignment,” says teacher Olivia Hanley.
Students are noticing the impact, too. Deshaun Smith says, “My grades have been getting better and better,” going from getting C’s and D’s to getting A’s and B’s.
In addition to improved classroom learning, students and teachers are noticing the difference in human interactions. “People are more interactive with each other and less with headphones and just by themselves,” says student Daniella Ceja. “Students talk to me in the halls now,” said principal Silvestri. “They have to talk to each other. A substitute teacher noticed better posture because they’re not looking down at their phones in the hallways on the way to class.”
But the talking isn’t the kind that gets them into trouble. The number of students being sent to Silvestri’s office has declined by more than 50%.
San Francisco-based Yondr created the green pouches specifically to curb cell phone use. A couple of students said they think the policy is too strict, and they wish they could at least have access to their phones during breaks and at lunch, but the benefits seem to be outweighing the criticisms.
San Lorenzo High School isn’t the only organization battling the impact of technology on school climate and culture. In field research conducted by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture
on school cultures and student formation, researchers found that a pioneering group of schools had established low- or no-tech policies in order to cultivate students who can attend to learning and to each other. The Waldorf, Montessori, Friends, Democratic, and International Baccalaureate high schools studied “had some limits on the use of technology in the classroom—for example, minimal projector use, no Smart Boards, and no cell phones in the school,” writes David Sikkink in The Content of Their Character.
These “pedagogical” schools—defined by their commitment to particular modes of learning—could limit technology on the principles of their pedagogies.
Ultimately, every school needs a principled reason for including, excluding, or limiting technology. Yondr
is one tool that, at least in San Lorenzo, is doing the trick to promote learning and relationships.