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By Olivia Reinitz
Seeley-Swan High School, Grade 11 

Ban Cell Phones from MCPS

Junior Journal

 

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Olivia Reinitz

Dear Superintendent of Missoula Public Schools,

I am a junior at Seeley-Swan High School and I am proposing to you a very unpopular idea among my generation and my peers. Cell phones should be banned from all Missoula County Public School classrooms. This idea is even disliked and rebuked by teachers. I suggest that cell phones are more detrimental than beneficial both to students and teachers. I am not here to complain and be a tattletale.

There needs to be a district wide regulation on cell phones in the school, one that does not give teachers a choice in deciding cell phone use. Teachers should not have to decide whether or not cell phones are allowed in their classroom. Teachers are not in charge of making the rules; they only enforce them.

I am not saying no technology in the classroom because tech is very helpful; however, Chromebooks are more educational in a classroom than a smartphone. Chromebooks allow access only to certain web pages and resources that are specifically educational. They do not allow access to social media.

It can be argued that the smartphone is better than the Chromebook due to its speed and better access to resources. The smartphone is an accepted part of the culture we live in today. To fight its use is to go against the changing and innovative times.

However, the whole point of education is to force your brain to learn and this does involve struggle. Smartphones take out the challenge education presents; they make finding an answer too easy; they require no thinking.

"Hey Siri..." this is how we find an answer, no critical thinking required. Smartphones do not enhance learning, they are a detriment. Learning is meant to be challenging in order to expand our brain's capacity for knowledge. Smartphones undermine learning. If everything in life was easy, the human race would never expand and grow. Innovations in the medical and science fields would not happen. Life on earth would be stagnant. There would be no need for a formal education system, no one would have to learn.

I have seen more than once where a teacher allows phones in their class with certain rules applied to that privilege. Eventually, students ignore the rules and the teacher is unable to catch the offenders.

Students have become skilled in the art of using a smartphone in class undetected, making teachers have to hunt to find offenders which takes away their teaching time. I myself, if I owned a phone, would be just as guilty of being distracted in class by that phone. But, since I do not, I find that it is easier to pay attention in class and be a more successful student. I do not have the constant distraction of a phone and I am very glad of that.

The students that sit around me who are on their phones a lot are a big distraction to me and to each other. They want to know what is going on with so and so. I hear the gossip and find myself also wanting to know about so and so. The students are inadvertently distracting each other.

How can a teacher, or even a student who is speaking to the class, compete with a funny Tweet or Snapchat video? How often does a student really just look up the definition of some word, say mystique, do not they also check that new Instagram message and, while they are at it, snap their friend who by the way is also in class, a different class?

The use of smartphones causes the human body to release the same hormone as marijuana, cocaine, ritalin, caffeine and nicotine release, dopamine. Dopamine, when released, enters the limbic system in the brain which is the reward center of the brain. The brain recognizes dopamine as good and desirable, and the brain begins to want more dopamine, causing an addiction.

The little ding, flash of light, or vibration of a smartphone when a message is received becomes irresistible to a teen; they have to check their phone. That notification releases a shot of dopamine.

Studies done by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics showed that in schools where cellphones are banned from classrooms, students have test scores that are seven percent higher than students in schools where cell phones are allowed in the classroom.

Professor Jeffrey Kuznekoff of Miami University Middletown in Ohio found that when he allowed students to text/tweet about the topic being taught versus texting/tweeting about unrelated subjects like what they did with their friends over the weekend, those students have a 70 percent chance at a better score on a test over the subject. Students who already are low achieving gain the most from cell phone ban in classrooms. These students' scores have been seen to improve by 14 percent.

This issue is so prevalent because 88 percent of American teens own a cellphone and 73 percent own smartphones. Many of these students have this device on them constantly and spend an average of four hours a day on it. How much of these four hours do students spend on their phones while in class?

For many it is a quarter to half of those four hours. That's an hour to two hours out of a seven hour learning day used for not learning. But to give these students a little credit, they get ten minutes in their favor for that word they looked up, the news article they were telling their teacher about and the search they did for ideas for painting with acrylics.

This is a problem of concern. This is too much time out of the day of all teachers' days, every day, being wasted. This problem has a simple solution but a solution that involves a hard decision.

How important is the smartphone to the classroom? Are you willing to anger many for the benefit of all? Cell phones need to be banned from all MCPS classrooms.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Sincerely,

Olivia Reinitz

 

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