Friday, 8 May 2015

My Classroom Cell Phone Policy

After I led my workshop at WCML this year, I got a few questions about my cell phone policy in class.  I have a fairly strict policy about the use of tech in FSL class.  I have to have such a policy: cell phones are not allowed for personal use in the school, and some of my colleagues aren't completely sold on using cell phones in the classroom.  And I understand their position, they have legit concerns.  My classroom cell phone policy is rigid enough that I hope I cover these concerns, but open enough that the students feel they can use the tech when they need it-- not only when I say they can.

I think its important to say that my practice changes from class to class.   For some classes, I am heavier on the consequences than others.  In others the policy has changed a few times to suit the class I am teaching.  You know your classes-- so you create the policy that works the best for them and their abilities.  So this is a choose your own adventure post.  Choose your class' own tech adventure!

The first thing I do is co-create a list of expectations and guidelines for tech use in the classroom.  (We add the sarcastic comments together.)  Students know that they are to use the tech for work only. These guidelines are posted on my cart, and on the screens of the iPads and other tech I use in class.  Not once have I heard, "I didn't know" when I've busted a student.  Sometimes the students quote the blue comments after I recite a rule.

Inevitably, when a student does something they shouldn't with the tech we're using, I have a series of consequences that I choose from depending on the severity of the transgression.

Transgression 1: Device not present on the top right corner of desk or table.

This rule was added not too long ago, because students were trying to be sneaky with their tech.  Now, all students know (and habitually place) their cell phones and iPad on the top corner of their desk when they sit down.  If they have a device that I don't see from the beginning of the class, they get a level one consequence.

Transgression 2: Failing a Screen Check.

During any activity, I can say to the class "Les écrans" signalling a screen check from all students.  They must show me their screens without changing anything.  And I know if they have changed anything, because their device will be on the home screen.  If they are honest, it is a level one consequence.  If they are not honest, level 2 consequence. 

Transgression 3: Breaking our Tech-pectations agreements.

Usually its a level 2 consequence because they should know better by now.  


My consequences are 2 leveled: Level 1, less serious, level 2 more serious, and usually includes a "heart-to-heart" chat/ lecture with me during their break.

Level 1 If the tech is necessary to complete the classwork, students become my special friends.  They get to sit with me whee I can see their screens, and work there for the rest of the period.  We all know how much teens love sitting right beside the teacher.

Level 1 If the tech is not necessary to complete the classwork, students lose their device to the l'oubliette, our lime green cell phone dungeon.  Most of my students are honest if they get caught doing something they shouldn't.  My grade 8s even made a song for times when the oubliette claims another cell phone: (To the tune of "Alouette"- Oubliette/ gentille oubliette./Oubliette/ madame va oublier.) I always forget about the phones in my oubliette. 

Level 2 If the tech is necessary to complete the classwork, students become my "pages." That is, they work for me.  They sit with me for the remainder of the time that it takes to complete the project, a short lecture on "trust" and they get to do my bidding.  They hand out books and sheets, and collect them too.

Level 2 If the tech is not necessary to complete the classwork, student loses device to the oubliette for the remainder of the class.  A chat at break, and an agreement contract.  Time in the oubliette varies too; first time, for the class.  Second time for the day.  Third time, their parents must pick the device up from the office. 

Sometimes, it is necessary to be a little creative with the consequences.  One of my students was consistently going off-task with his phone.  I confiscated it until lunch.  I locked his phone, and emailed the password to his mother.  He could still answer class from people, and make emergency calls, but he couldn't unlock it to do anything else.  I haven't had a problem since them.  Probably won't fall for it again, though.

* Of course, these "transgressions" are not the more serious problems such as looking at inappropriate materials; or cyber bullying or taking pictures/ recordings in class.  These are minor, off-topic, "look at the shiny!" infractions.  For more serious problems, I involve the school administration and follow our internet policies in place. 

My tech policy works well for me.  I know it seems very strict, but it works for my situation as a Core FSL teacher on a cart with students on rotary.  Additionally, I use humor in the enforcement of my policy, so its not as harsh as it may seem.  So far, it has been very effective in managing my classes' use of their own devices in FSL class.  My policy will change as I need it to. 

What is your class room tech policy?  Are you a rotary teacher?  What tips do you have?