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Contributors: Cindy Hughes, Kellie Grant, Rachel James, Jennifer Duarte


But what if I really want tacos for supper?

When starting this project, there were – and continue to be – a number of logistical issues to deal with. What device were we going to use? Was there going to be a stable internet connection available? Where do we store the devices? How do we best share them?

The biggest issue came in changing our thinking about using devices at all at school.  There are few things in recent years more taboo than getting caught with a cell phone. I have read some board’s policies on the matter where even volunteers in a school must turn off their phones the minute they enter the building.
Burying one’s head in the sand on the issue, however, is not the way to deal with this. Reality is that the use of smartphones and personal devices has exploded – it has changed the way society functions at a fundamental level. As educators we not only have a responsibility to our students to teach them how to use a device responsibly, but we would be foolish to ignore the vast amount of information available to us.
That doesn't take away from the sound reasons behind the original ban on cell phones and personal devices – and addressing those provides our first challenge.

It is vital that an environment of trust be established.  It my classroom, texting, social media and telephone calls are still not allowed – including at recess.  I have appealed to parents to avoid sending texts to their children during the school day in order to foster this feeling of trust. By far the majority of text messaging among my students has been done between parent and child - I forgot my gym clothes, I have a headache, I want tacos for dinner. My students have to trust me too - they have to know that if they need to reach their parent, I'll take them to the phone at recess.  If they tell me they aren't well I will respect that and let them go to the office to call home. If they want tacos for dinner - well, that's a time they learn they have to communicate before or school or wait. 

We have a list of rules up that students are expected to follow.  And they know the consequences if they don’t – they don’t want to lose access to the Chromebooks and the other devices they bring in. At first, daily review is vital, but it's important to point out reminders once in awhile too.  They must also sign a contract, specifying when personal devices will be used and under what circumstances.  The bottom line: it's always under my direction and supervision.

Which is not to say it has been perfect.  A colleague walked in my room to discover one seemingly hard-working and studious pair playing a rousing game of Angry Birds rather than working on the science assignment.  Careful monitoring is also an important part.  And realistically – who among us hasn't snuck a glance at a text message received during an endless staff meeting?  Or checked the score of a game?  Teaching students to deal with distractions – and get back on task is valuable indeed.

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