Some educators softening stance on smartphone use


by Michelle Arnold

Posted on July 29, 2013 at 4:18 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 29 at 6:25 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A 10-year ban on cell phones is still in place in Jefferson County Public Schools, but more educators say they may look for ways to use them in class. Some JCPS principals say smartphones aren't all bad.

“I think it should be for instructional use and not just for students’ pleasure, and so if a teacher sees fit to use the cell phone in the classroom-- my opinion is it should be used,” Central High School Principal Dan Withers said.

Principals can ask for a waiver. Those waivers are reviewed on an individual basis; principals must submit a plan saying how the phones will be utilized for education. Withers said there are still some issues to think through.

“Whether it's going to be fair for every student--if we let some students use it and some students don't have a smartphone. The other thing is if logistically the computer system can handle that many students using smartphones at the same time,” Withers said.

For years the cell phone has been a distraction in many classrooms, but now phones do more than text and make calls. Educators want to find a smart way to integrate smartphones into the class.

“It was really helpful to use my phone to look things up in the dictionary app or things like that. So I personally don't have a problem with it,” student Olivia Byel said.

While there are helpful tools on a phone, there's also social media to worry about.

“You have Twitter, you have Instagram; you have anything that gives them an immediate response. I can assure you there’s no teacher anywhere near as interesting as Facebook,” parent Stephen Bush said. 

It's not just parents wary of the changes, some students are as well.

“I think I would end up being more distracted than anything. I am a person who needs to be more focused,” student Katherine Cook said.
The current rule states students are not allowed to use their cell phones on school property or during school sponsored activities. If a school principal applies for a waiver, JCPS can accept it or reject it.