I sympathize with teacher who resorted to cell phone jammer. Do you?

Having spent the week with five teens in the mountains of New Hampshire, I sympathize with the Florida teacher who resorted to a cellphone jammer to block students’ phones in class so they would pay attention.

Parenting Teens And ScreensI thought about tossing a phone or two off a cliff when kids were looking at their screens rather than the vistas.

The jammer got high school teacher Dean Liptak suspended without pay for five days from Fivay High School in Pasco County. It’s illegal to use a jammer as the teacher learned after Verizon paid a visit to the school.

The jammer blocked communication to the cell tower on the Fivay High campus, and the service provider and the school were both concerned about safety issues. Liptak bought the jammer online and thought it was legal to use.

According to WTSP-TV:

Liptak tells the district he only thought the cell phone jammer would impact his classroom, and get his students to put down their phones and pay attention.

“Verizon had come to the school saying someone had a jamming device, because the cell phone service was being interrupted in the area,” says Pasco County School District Spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.

Cobbe says Liptak’s jamming device blocked communication to the cell tower on the Fivay High campus. “The consequences could have been dire, if he was jamming the signal so 911 calls can be made. It would affect an emergency in the school,” says Cobbe.

Schools contend they must allow students to bring cell phones to class because parents believe phones are necessary and promote safety.

But a new study out of Great Britain says phones in classrooms undercut learning, especially among lower achieving students.

Released in May, the study states:

There are debates in many countries as to how schools should address the issue of mobile phones. Some advocate for a complete ban while others promote the use of mobile phones as a teaching tool in classrooms. This debate has most recently been seen with the Mayor of New York removing a 10-year ban of phones on school premises in March 2015, stating that abolition has the potential to reduce inequality (Sandoval et al, 2015).2 Despite the extensive use of mobile phones by students and the heated debate over how to treat them, the impact of mobile phones on high school student performance has not yet been academically studied. In this paper, we estimate the effect of schools banning mobile phones on student test scores.

We find that following a ban on phone use, student test scores improve by 6.41% of a standard deviation. Our results indicate that there are no significant gains in student performance if a ban is not widely complied with. Furthermore, this effect is driven by the most disadvantaged and underachieving pupils. Students in the lowest quartile of prior achievement gain 14.23% of a standard deviation, whilst, students in the top quartile are neither positively nor negatively affected by a phone ban. The results suggest that low-achieving students are more likely to be distracted by the presence of mobile phones, while high achievers can focus in the classroom regardless of the mobile phone policy. Schools could significantly reduce the education achievement gap by prohibiting mobile phone use in schools, and so by allowing phones in schools, New York may unintentionally increase the inequalities of outcomes. We include several robustness checks such as an event study, placebo bans, test for changes in student intake and range of alternative outcome measures.

Schools that restrict access to mobile phones subsequently experience an improvement in test scores. However, these findings do not discount the possibility that mobile phones could be a useful learning tool if their use is properly structured.

What are the options for teachers fed up with the distraction of cell phones?

Does anyone know of a school cell phone policy that works for teachers, parents and students?

 

Reader Comments 0

98 comments
Phil8192
Phil8192

Announce at the beginning of class that all cell phones are to be turned OFF.  If anyone's phone rings or makes any disruptive sounds during class, it's an automatic "zero" for the day for the violator. Offer reward points for students who turn in violators, or a penalty points for the ENTIRE CLASS if any one student violates the rule.  It's low tech and solves the problem without violating federal law.

Just-Another-Dad
Just-Another-Dad

Sympathize with the phone jammer?  Maybe.  

Acknowledge that there is a problem that needs a solution?  Absolutely.


However, it seems to me there are two issues getting jumbled up in our conversation.  

One - the need for parents to communicate with their students/children.  

Two - the use of cellphones during class time.


First, parent-to-child connections.  

With the advent of instant communication provided by cellphones, some parents have expanded their need-to-know to include "Are you there yet" and "Are you on your way home".  The anxiety transferred to the student (you must contact me at all times) is palpable and harmful - for both parties.  This is not to deny that the ability to connect when picking up a child is a terrific benefit.  But the phone is only a tool which should be used to make a connection for the "out of normal" times.  Having experienced the breakdown when one party "forgets" to turn on the phone or answer the call does not argue for cellphone usage.


Now, in-school usage.

Many parents seem to think that their connection ends (and thus the cellphone use by the student ends) between the first and last school bells.  It is the extremely rare student that can shut down their cellphone for the day (or even for a single period), avoiding the insatiable emotional gratification of instant contact (instant gratification?  see anxiety transferral above).  Anyone who spends any time with students understands that self-discipline, the art of postponing the gratification, does not come naturally.  Having the operational tool in hand will drive the usage of that tool.


Frankly, there is no need for cellphone access during a school day.  All classes that require calculators specify the model of calculator needed - and they are not cellphones and are not cellphone compatible.  All research for papers and projects can use resources found in something called a media center (apparently formerly known as a library).  


Learning to exist, if only for short periods, without access to this tool called cellphone should be a welcome overlay for educators - and students and parents.  

TrySafetyFirst
TrySafetyFirst

Solution:  TrySafetyFirst website shows a solution where:

Each individual classroom has on/off switch so:

Teachers can choose to use phone as teaching tool.

Teachers can choose to silence all phones.

Emergency 911 and call to parent will always work.

Cameras and video will not work in rest rooms and locker rooms.

Students can use phone between class, at lunch, and when teacher permits.

FloydWilson
FloydWilson

He put countless lives at risk blocking an entire cell tower from operating. Police EMT's and Fire all use cell to communicate. 

FloydWilson
FloydWilson

I will never sympathize with a federal criminal who cannot maintain control of his classroom. 

Greg Palamas
Greg Palamas

It's interesting that poor children suffer the most from using their $500 phones too much. I wonder if they have this problem in Calcutta.

TicTacs
TicTacs

Only adults should be allowed by law to carry a cell phone, and only after attending training for proper use and manners.  Violators should have the phone confiscated and destroyed on the spot. That will stop them from sucking eggs.

forexbomb
forexbomb

What a complete JOKE.. It never fails to amaze me how school administrators are so incompetent..  They need to pay him back every cent that was taken... Period.

Savdon
Savdon

@forexbomb Why?  I bet you a hundred dollars that somewhere in the box the jammer came in was a statement saying, "May be illegal in some jurisdictions."  Kind of like radar detectors.

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

How can cell phones in the classroom be a necessity? Parents who take this stance are acting stupidly.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

Students are allowed to bring their phones into the classroom????  That should be a no go.  Have them leave them outside the classroom or in their locker.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

" Liptak tells the district he only thought the cell phone jammer would impact his classroom, and get his students to put down their phones and pay attention."


Really.  This guy is that stupid to believe that???  Good God and he is teaching kids???  Yet another example of someone who should not be teaching.

Phil8192
Phil8192

@MiltonMan Good God, you're making comments here on a subject that you don't understand???  Of course, jamming equipment can be built with low power to only affect a limited area, and it is done so in countries where it is legal, e.g. in movie theatres and restaurants.

woodrow404
woodrow404

After reading through many of these comments, I find myself agreeing with the one or two who proposed abandoning the predominant teacher-up-front blackboard classroom model, and finding some way to incorporate phones in teaching. I realize that is not going to happen overnight, but for kids today, a phone is like an added sensory organ.  So, they are experiencing the world, and life, through their phones. Once you understand that, some answers begin to crop up in the back of your mind. One theory would be (e.g. in math and science) that if you have to look up a formula on four different occasions, you would remember the formula. Perhaps phones are the new calculators, which also used to be forbidden in class. 

ComaToes
ComaToes

If I had one last Sunday in the restaurant I was in, I would surely have used it.  At the next booth behind us a lady was talking so loudly for 15 mins everyone knew her personal problems.  Why is it people think they have to talk louder when on a cellphone?  Weird huh?  If I knew they could be "spot-used" without detection I would surely buy one. I have had more than one occasion in which I had wished I had one. People are so rude and inconsiderate with their cellphones. BTW, kids in schools just a few years ago didn't have them, so how did they survive.  AND that "emergency stuff" is just a cop-out !  Schools have landlines in their offices.

Former Teacher
Former Teacher

At a private school where I taught, students were allowed to bring their cell phones to school, but NOT into the classroom.  Students could use their phones during lunch but not in class.  It worked well for all!

Cere
Cere

Yes. I definitely sympathize. And further, I wish I had one of those jammers to use on the people I see texting on the highway!!

hssped
hssped

In Fayette County most high schools have the bring your technology to school thing going on.  Kids are allowed to have their phones all day and have them on.  You can't take them up. 


About 7 years ago (before bring your technology to school started) a teacher wanted to bring a jammer to school to keep kids from texting and such in class.  It was another TEACHER that had a fit!!  She stayed on her phone all day long.  She said so that NO ONE was going to interfere with her connection to the outside world.   She finally got into trouble (took about 3 years of documenting) and she "resigned."  


And why can't we have cameras with live feed in EVERY classroom?  That would solve all problems...bad teachers and bad kids.  

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

Our school has a strict policy. No phones in the classroom. Leave it in your car or in your locker.  And if you have it in the building, it better be on airplane mode, because the locker that starts ringing or vibrating is cause for detention.  Detention is 1 hour Friday early arrival (7am) and sit in a room, no books, no paper, no talking. 1 hour of sitting. 

3 detentions = 1 major detention = mandatory week off any sports or extracurricular activity, plus afterschool grounds or facility cleaning crew. 


Most kids find that they can do without their phones during class.  

Savdon
Savdon

@AWA1 Then why do you agree with, "Now Verizon dictates how/what we teach...sheesh. How many more hands do we need in the pot?" 

They were just doing their job by finding out why EVERY cellphone within range of the tower was INOP.  I do like your school's policy.


JImC2
JImC2

There are way too many cell phones in use during inappropriate times and places. All schools should have a legal jammer built in and the thing should be transmitting during all class hours. For that matter, fine restaurants, concert halls and theaters should have jammers operating during performance. We have all had far too many performances interrupted by some fool's ringtone.
The excuse that "I need the phone in case of an emergency" is nothing but an alibi offered by an inconsiderate addict.

popacorn
popacorn

@JImC2

Perfect. Don't forget the stupid parents who believe this ridiculous alibi.

MarkeB63
MarkeB63

I'm a teacher and this is a simple fix. My class policy is "If I see it, I take." Followed by "Your parents can pick it up at the office at their convenience." The school supports this policy and I have minimal problems. I teach technology and we do sometimes use the phones for assignments, but outside of these occasions, I do not want to see them. Of course, now we're starting to deal with the Apple watches.

eulb
eulb

@MarkeB63 Thanks for mentioning Apple watches.  I'm amazed that any students have such sophisticated and expensive equipment.  Any student who has a functioning Apple watch must also have a fairly recent model i-phone nearby because the watch uses signals transmitted from the phone.  Even if the phone is out of sight or stashed in a classroom cubby, it may be within range of the watch, allowing the student to continue sending/receiving messages on his wrist.

I don't know the range of the signal or whether it can penetrate walls.  Do you?  If a student stashes his phone in his locker but continues to wear the watch throughout the building, will he be able to send/receive messages on his wrist? My guess is: the watch will receive the signal in rooms that are very close to the locker area, but not throughout the whole building.


Some  colleges have rules banning the Apple watch during exams and major tests.  I guess middle schools and high schools will have to do the same.  Good luck enforcing it, though.  If the student is wearing long sleeves or a jacket, the watch may escape detection.

heyteacher
heyteacher

Taking up the cell phones seems like the answer in theory but in practice it  is a giant pain  -- in my school, many of us float and have no place to lock up 30 phones every period (most of my students have nicer phones than I have).  My honors level students can monitor themselves quite well -- a quick "please put your phones up" is all that is needed -- but that is not the case with my regular classes. 

 We struggle every year with a policy that works -- currently we are supposed to take repeat offenders phones and give them to an admin but by the end of the year the admin team was swamped with other issues and wouldn't take them.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Sounds sort of like the "get off my lawn" chorus. Take away those distracting pencils and pens too - they might doodle and write notes - better to use charcoal on the back of a shovel.


The genie is out of the bottle. Give kids a computer and grade appropriate, meaningful research based, critical thinking assignments that students see as valuable to their life goals. How would you like to work in a knowledge based job(student) all day and have to sit at a small desk, listen to lectures, take notes, do worksheets, read through a boring textbook when you could have your own computer to research, process work, and collaborate.


The computer is a tool - incorporate it into the process. I notice everyone here is communicating online-should we go back to letters to the editor?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@skeeterN @AvgGeorgian

I think that goes back to the suggestion (Jeffery Eav) that we teach students to use phones as we do on our jobs - being productive and using our phones appropriately within the rules. How many knowledge workers out there have their phones taken upon arriving at work or have the signal jammed in their office?

skeeterN
skeeterN

@AvgGeorgian @skeeterN  If your Dr ordered you to have a blood test and the nurse answers her phone while the needle is your arm, that fine with you?  You order your espensive coffee and the barista checks her incoming texts, no problem?  You're in court charged with texting while driving and the judge answers his phone to talk to his kid who is calling from classroom; hey no problem?


These are all people at work.  If the kids already have pc, laptop or pad, why do they need their phones to do research?? By the way, my wife works in a hospital and it's almost impossible to reach her on her cell.  A nurse friend told me she thinks the baby factory where she works jam the signal.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@skeeterN 


1. The nurse and judge example(they have their phones with them and don't behave as you suggest) - I specifically said we should teach students to be productive AND use their phone APPROPRIATELY, as MOST adults do everyday.


2. I didn't say the kids need the phone for research. I said the students need to be supplied with a computer, given demanding, appropriate, and beneficial tasks, AND be taught to use their phones in a business appropriate manner. 


3. Is there anything about my points that need further clarification?


skeeterN
skeeterN

@AvgGeorgian  There's a BIG difference from communicating online, on a hot Sunday afternoon, than updating your FB status during algebra I class.  Agree??

newsphile
newsphile

@AvgGeorgian @skeeterN     I think parents should teach their student-age children to respect their teachers.  When a teacher says to put away your phone, the student should know the parent also expects the student to put it away.  School is for learning many different things, one of which is that sometimes you have to do something you might not like.  This generation of students has difficulty accepting that, and their parents are their biggest enablers. 

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

Now Verizon dictates how/what we teach...sheesh.

How many more hands do we need in the pot?

Savdon
Savdon

@Iluvnutella Actually, no, they don't.  But they did need to know why EVERY cellphone within range of that tower was INOP.

Class is dismissed.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Let's use it as a teaching moment. Let them have their phones in their pocket on vibrate. Establish rules that any normal business person would use in a business meeting. Have tough penalties for improper etiquette.

redweather
redweather

@JeffreyEav While I agree that this is one way to do it, I would rather give them a positive incentive for putting away their phones than penalize them.

newsphile
newsphile

@redweather @JeffreyEav     I like the school that teaches students they are free to make choices, but they have to accept the consequences of their choices.  Teachers and administrators who give out consistent, fair penalties are respected by students.  Although they fuss about them, teens feel more secure with rules and guidelines.  Most parents don't teach their children to follow rules, but someone has to do so.  Learning to follow rules will literally save some of their lives. 

SoGAVet
SoGAVet

Students DON'T need phones in school.  They cheat with them and drag all manner of social drama into the already hormonally charged atmosphere.


A few years ago, our school policy was: Use of cell phone results in 30 days loss of the phone.  No "writing anyone up" just turn in the phone and the parent could pick it up 30 days later.  Second offense was 60 days, the third was to for the rest of the year.

Parents complained "they were paying for the phones" and schools had no right to take them up.  The school caved.

During state testing, no student is allowed to have a cell phone in the classroom.  When I saw the improved behavior and lack of distraction, I vowed I would strictly enforce a no-phone policy in my classroom next year.  I will speak with my principal and get his concurrence.

We don't need policies that heap lots of administrivia on the schools nor allow students to fail for refusal to comply.  We just need to enforce the rules. 

Observant1
Observant1

Put a box on the teacher's desk and have the kids drop their phones in when they walk in and retrieve them when they leave. Turn off the ringers during class.  Problem solved.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Observant1


Unfortunately, someone would grab another student's phone and then the teacher would be held accountable.

eagle9857
eagle9857

@Observant1 Can't do that because then you have students taking someone else's phone.

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

@redweather @skeeterN @Observant1 Your college students are more like the motivated students in the study who were able to block off worrying about their cell phones.


Too many high school students would think they could get away with hiding the phone in a purse or a pocket, because they might get an important message that couldn't wait 50 minutes.

redweather
redweather

@ScienceTeacher671 @redweather @skeeterN @Observant1 One would like to think that all the money being spent on their college education would make college students motivated to learn and succeed.  Unfortunately, that isn't the case for many students.  They are not all that far removed from high school, and their behaviors prove that time and again.

sciblue
sciblue

@Observant1 Who is going to monitor who picks up what phone? I certainly don't want to take time to make sure every kids gets the right phone. I don't want parents blaming me when their kid's $500 phone goes missing.