Technology! We have such a love/hate relationship with it. And at TCFL, this tension was especially noticeable in regards to smartphones — up until we came up with a solution to address this year. Yes, smartphones are mini-computers and we can do a lot with them, but they’re also hard to ignore, and many of our students over the last few years just couldn’t stop playing games on them, watching videos, or checking out their social media. They were an incredible distraction and teachers felt like they had become smartphone police.
We read a lot of articles about implementing tech in the classroom so that smartphones would be a help instead of a distraction — and we tried those methods. But parents still called students during class time, interrupting teachers; students still used them to chat and play games instead of working; and at recess, students were on their phones instead of talking to each other (we had a rule against smartphone use at recess, but it was extremely hard to enforce). When checking out our students’ screen time stats, we saw that many of them were on their phones 8 to 12 hours a day. (Before you judge, though, check your own!)
Despite our attempts, we continued to struggle to regulate smartphone use. However, a couple of our teachers then mentioned that they’d gone to concerts where they’d had to lock up their smartphones in Yondr pouches, which allowed them to keep their phones on them without being able to access them. We had a lightbulb moment and contacted Yondr to see if we could use their pouches in school. They responded that, Yes! They had a program for the use of Yondr in schools. We ordered the needed number of Yondrs, and in September, we got started.
Before we dive in: Yondr pouches are small cases that snap to lock and are later opened on an unlocking base. They work a little like security tags on clothing. Students keep their cell phones with them and if they need to use them they can go to the office to unlock them.
- We first sent out a letter to the parents explaining what Yondr pouches were and how we would be using them. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
- The pouches are numbered, and homeroom teachers now pass them out to students every morning.
- At the end of the day, students can unlock their Yondrs at a station on the way out. At first, we worried that this would be a slow process, but once students learned the routine, it became quick and easy. (We don’t set out the unlocking station until the end of the day to avoid unlocking when it’s not intended.)
- If teachers need to use smartphones for a classroom activity, they can ask us to bring the unlocking mechanism to class, and students can then quickly unlock their Yondrs.
As we expected, the teachers and parents were happy with the changes. Here’s the feedback we heard:
- “Best change ever made in the school! Congratulations”
- “Oh, I love it. Can I get them at home?”
- “Kudos for a great initiative!”
- “Students are less distracted and it makes teaching easier. I do find it a bit of a pain when I want to use smartphones for an activity, though.”
- “I think kids need a break from work every once in a while, but rather than doing that with their smartphones, I’ve been bringing out this box of things they can play with, including some puzzles, Legos, and other building toys. Students are learning to use traditional toys and they seem to love it.”
- All teachers agree, the biggest change is recess: “Recess is beautiful 😍 Students from all grade levels playing different games together while sharing the court.”
Our biggest surprise throughout this change was the student response we received. We expected a huge pushback and lots of complaints, but that never happened.
- “Personally, I never used my phone in school, but I don’t like the control. I’m on strike and I leave my phone at home.”
But the majority seem happy with the initiative:
- “I didn’t like the idea at first. I wanted to check my phone all the time and I felt frustrated. But I only felt that way for about a week. Now I notice that I’ve been more interactive with teachers and students. I participate more.”
- “I thought I would need my phone and this would be impossible, but it’s not. It feels like a detox. Not being able to snap a picture of the homework is the only real problem I have.”
- “Recess is sooooo good. We’re talking to each other now. I thought I would hate it, but I actually love it.
- ”It’s not traumatic in the way I thought it would be. I thought dismissal would be a nightmare, but it’s not. We’re done in a few minutes.”
- “I notice that there’s less bullying. Social media and chat groups make bullying easier.”
- “It takes away the anxiety of wanting to take your phone out in school. I thought about my phone all the time before. Now I can concentrate better.”
Overall, Yondr pouches have been a huge success. They’ve changed the atmosphere of our school — more focus on learning, less bullying, more connection!
So, what do you think? Have you seen Yondr pouches being used in schools? Do you think they’re a positive move or a negative one? I’d love to hear your thoughts.