From an email response:
My 2 cents on your questions about cell phones (and applies to most of the policies)
#1 Make only changes that will have a clear positive impact on the learning and development of our students – the test is not whether a change will have a negative impact
#2 Recheck any changes against #1
On cell phones in particular. I was at one of the leading applied neuroscience conferences recently. The conference is run by global leaders in the field. Based on clear results of the latest reseach on the impact of constant disruptions on the brains ability to think critically and to internalize information (i.e. LEARN) the unanimous decision was taken to absolutely enforce a total ban on connected electronic devices durign sessions. Before a speaker starts you show your neighbors that you have switched your devices off.
At the first session, the CEO of a large company stood up and said that he was waiting for some very important information and that he needed to be exempted. The Chair (Phd in neuroscience and Professor at Columbia) looked at him and simply said “Wow that sounds really important, what are you doing here?”
Here are some facts:
– Interruptions during concentration has a measurable impact on brain performance
– just feeling a buzz in your pocket and mentally resisting the urge to check the message is one of the most brain intensive and brain tiring activities, just a few of these during a 1 hour business meeting exhausts even the most capable executive
– giving in to the urge and reading the message has an even bigger impact!!!
Secondly, this is decision I would not make unless the teachers are in almost unanimous agreement. We need to think about making their lives easier – our kid benefit.
Finally, as an public institution we have an obligation towards increasing equality between kids. Some kids come from more advantaged situations, we need to help kids who do not come from these situations get to the same level. That is one of missions of public education.