Teachers limit cell phone use

Freshman Toby Bergman puts away his cell phone before class Thursday at Ralston High School.

From social media and games to connecting with friends via text messaging, cellphones have become a distraction in the classroom, one that Ralston High School couldn’t ignore.

In the spring semester of the last school year, Ralston High School implemented a strict no phones policy which prohibited students from engaging in cellphone usage during class time.

Social studies teachers Andrea Hartman and Cammie Weland and culinary academy teacher Christi Krist made rules of their own.

Krist requires her students to put their phones in the shoe caddie at the beginning of class, and when the bell rings, they can have them back.

At the beginning of each quarter, Krist said she warns her students that if they do not invest in the class, it will not be fun.

“We have much better conversations in class because they are not distracted,” Krist said.

Though it is not a requirement, Hartman also has a shoe caddie she encourages students to put their phones in, especially those who give into temptation.

Hartman said students often try to push the limits, which is why it is important to set the ground rules early.

“You have to establish your expectations at the beginning of class and hold tight,” she said.

While Weland does not have a place for students to store their phones during class, she uses a different incentive to keep them from staring at screens.

If students abuse their phones during class, it is reflected in a professionalism grade Weland gives. After the first warning, Weland says, students will begin to see how cellphones affect their grade.

Weland said some of her goals include teaching her students time management and how to be engaged, all of which technology can disturb.

In her class, Ethnic Perspectives, Weland and her students discuss heavy topics such as racism, sexism and homophobia.

“To get to the root and to be able to discuss those issues and concerns, they have to feel a sense of community,” Weland said.

Without phones, she said, students tend to share their ideas on the world around them.

“It’s an easier way to build a sense of community within the classroom,” she said. “I think they trust each other more. They are more open.”

Since the policies have been put in place, both teachers and students have come to appreciate their learning environment.

“They really enjoy the class more because everyone is participating,” Weland said.

“I think it’s made a better environment.”

Krist said some students have even thanked her for not allowing them to use their phones.

“A lot of people have come to the realization that having the phone around them just does not work all the time,” Krist said.

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