At Dodge City schools, opinion on the use of cell phones is divided, as are school policies.
Policies regarding cell phone use become less strict as students advance in grade level. At Dodge City High School (DCHS), not only are students allowed to bring cell phones to school, they are also allowed to use them in between class and even during certain classes.
At Dodge City schools, opinion on the use of cell phones is divided, as are school policies. Policies regarding cell phone use become less strict as students advance in grade level. At Dodge City High School (DCHS), not only are students allowed to bring cell phones to school, they are also allowed to use them in between class and even during certain classes. Some teachers allow students to use their phone as a music player during class, and often find that it keeps them focused on assignments. Others allow students to use their phone as a learning device, such as government teacher Chris Doussa, whose students use their phones to pull material from the internet. “Right now we have about at least half of our teachers using cell phones for educational purposes,” high school Principal Jacque Feist said. Others see a cell phone as a less welcome addition to the classroom. One high school teacher completely restricts students from using their device during class, even as a calculator, seeing it as an unnecessary distraction. If it weren't for parent input, the same may have been the case for every single class room in the building. According to Feist, the high school originally intended to ban cell phones completely, but parents insisted that their children bring their mobile device to school so they could communicate with them. “Parents wanted students to be able to check messages from them,” Feist said. “So when we put the policy together, our parents very much determined what the policy would be. We would have made it much more restrictive than we did.” That said, area schools, including DCHS, report few cases of students abusing their school's cell phone policy. Few cases are reported of students using cell phones to cheat on exams, bully other students or even text during class. “We don't have a lot of teachers complain,” Feist said. “…We have a strict policy with that so it's not tolerated. And if kids are using cell phones to do that it's easy to track.” “We see very little confiscation,” echoed Dodge City Middle School (DCMS) Principal Mike King. “They're respecting the classroom environment.” Policies are more strict at the lower grade levels. At both DCMS and Comanche Middle School, students are allowed to bring cell phones to school but they are not allowed to use them during school hours. According to King, the policy was made not only to reduce classroom distractions but also to reduce theft. The same policy prevails at the elementary schools, where some students use cell phones to communicate with their parents. Where some see the cell phone as an unnecessary distraction, others see a tool for learning. At the high school, some classrooms use cell phones to scan QR codes. Even at DCMS cell phones have been used to some degree as a mobile learning device. Over the summer, students used smartphones to take pictures of simple machines and share them in class. “I think the time has come for us as teachers to look at the cell phone not so much as a distraction but as a learning instrument,” DCMS Librarian Sarah Schaeffer said. To an extent, USD 443 has already embraced mobile learning technology, with the introduction of one-to-one iPads coming in January. With that change, some administrators see room for some of the more restrictive policies regarding cell phone use to change. “I think eventually we may see that policy begin to loosen up because the smartphone is very conducive to learning,” King said. “But we'll have to teach teachers how to use them in the classroom.” Others see the introduction of the iPad as detracting from the possibilities of cell phone use in the class, since those devices will take over much of what the smartphone could be used for. “With the iPads, the cell phones are being pushed aside, which is a shame because cell phones are a great tool,” DCMS technology education teacher Jesse West said. At the elementary level, the possibilities of cell phones being used as a learning device are less clear. “I could see where there would be a benefit to use their phones,” Ross Elementary School Principal Amy Loder said. “I'm not sure what that would be for younger kids. I don't see the need right now.”