Skip to main content

No-Phone Friday

Happy Friday, my friends! As the weeks wind down and we gear up for summer break, many of us teachers are trying to keep our students engaged and motivated. Not an easy task. Not only are they extremely eager for a break, but they are also very, very distracted. Distracted by normal high school issues - relationships, events, homework, and so forth - and distracted by their #BFFs, the little devices that tend to dictate and publicize their every move: their cell phones.

If you're like me, you have probably seen an increase in cell phone usage in the classroom. In addition, I have more and more students trying to keep their headphones in during class. It is getting out of control....and don't forget, I am a fan of technology. But I am not a fan of it when it distracts students and keeps them from being present in various situations. In addition, I was finding that the time I was giving students to complete their work in my class was wasted...just completely they worked on other homework from various classes and looked at their phone every 2 minutes, as this is how often (or even faster) they receive a new notification. Like I said...out of control.

With final exams quickly approaching, I know how overwhelmed students can get as they finish up final units and start preparing for their various finals. It is a lot to handle, and many of our students get anxious as they cram and prepare for these assessments. We have a few different portions of the final in my class, so our team gives students class time to prepare. Yes, a great opportunity for the students; however, they do not take advantage of it. Wait...let me revise that. Most of them do not take advantage and spend a majority of the period shuffling through their stuff, checking their phones, changing their music, and then trying to refocus to just starting that process again two minutes later. WASTE. OF. TIME.

Today, in an effort to alleviate final exam preparation homework in my class, I called for "No-Phone Friday." That's right, my friends, students were not allowed to look at their phones the entire period. And, they had to work on my final exam review packet, only. No other options. Ok...many of you might be thinking that you already do this, and I applaud you for that. Before this year, I was not against students having their phones in class. In fact, we used them from time to time for learning purposes.  This year, however, phones have hindered, not helped, progress in my class. So guess what....we put them away today, and it was awesome. That calls for a boomshakalaka.

So, now that I'm back from class, I want to share what happened during no-phone Friday:
  • Students complained about the expectation a bit, but they mostly seemed ok with it. 
  • Some students put their phones on my desk - without me asking - so they wouldn't be distracted. I thought that was pretty awesome...they knew they needed help and did what they needed to in order to follow expectations.
  • Students were talking to each other. Yes, people...I said they were talking to each other. And they were getting work done. Some tables actually talked, debated, and used the text in order to prove each other wrong....a mini academic discussion without me even asking them to do so. Crazy cool, right? It made my day. #EDUwin
  • Students were smiling and laughing with each other. 
  • Students listened and sang along with the songs I played for the entire class on our speakers. This sparked some discussion about their favorite songs and artists. It didn't distract them but instead helped them make connections with one another. 
  • Students talked to me. Asked me questions about their work and about other things that were on their minds. I helped them work through the academic discussion questions and motivated them to think critically about various topics. 
  • Students got their work done. Yes, without as many distractions, many of them finished or almost finished their final exam academic discussion prep. They felt good about this. 
  • A few students even told me they enjoyed the break. Yes, I used the word enjoy. They told me the period went by fast. That is because they were engaged in what they were doing.
Walking out of the classroom, I reflected on the importance of being present and all that comes with it: Being engaged. Building relationships. Being productive. Enjoying our time. Thinking critically. Communicating our thoughts and questions. Gaining access to knowledge. Practicing advocacy when there is someone there to help. 

As we continue to work with distracted students who have constant access to all things a phone can provide, we must teach them, show them, and provide opportunities for them to be present. I feel for our students and our society's addiction to notifications, social media, games, and all other digital distractions. I struggle with it, too. I assume most of us do. So, my friends, let's keep fighting the good fight and using our classroom space to make a difference. #whatsup