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A proposal before the Knox County Board of Education would permit high school students to use cell phones at various times throughout the day.

7:56 AM, Oct 5, 2010   |    comments
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  • Students at Powell High School use cell phones to text answers posed in class

The Knox County Board of Education is considering a more lenient policy when it comes to students using cell phones, including in some cases, allowing them to be used during classes.

The new policy would allow high school students to use the phones at various times during the day. Some schools already allow it, and are even finding them to be valuable tools.

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This year administrators at Powell High School changed their stance on student cell phone usage. It is now acceptable to make phone calls and send text messages before and after school, during class changes, lunchtime, and in approved classroom settings.

"We're encouraging our students to use them the right way, just like adults need to use them the right way and at the right time, and we've been encouraging our teachers to incorporate them in their instruction," said Principal Ken Dunlap.

Teachers are able to use the phones as part of their instruction. Questions can be posed on-line, and students can call or text answers to the website. Teachers get immediate feedback as to the number of correct answers.

Dunlap said the approach has helped encourage student participation in class, since answers are submitted anonymously. Since adopting the policy, the number of instances where students using phones during unapproved times in class has decreased.

"Fewer of those have been reported to us in the office, because they've been able to do what they need to do in between classes, its just really been a benefit for everybody," Dunlap said.

Current district policy prohibits students from using phones during the day, however school administrators are permitted to create their own usage guidelines.

The proposed policy would allow students in every grade level to have phones in schools. Students in Pre-K through fifth grades would be required keep the phones off and stored in a backpack or purse during the day. Sixth through eighth grade students would be permitted to use phones before and after school. In high school, phone usage would be permitted before and after school, during class change, lunch, and approved classroom settings.

Administrators at each level can approve cell phone usage for academic purposes under the proposal.

Beyond using text messages to answer questions in class, Dunlap sees potential for other teaching opportunities using emerging cellular technology.

"Probably over half our students have internet access on their phone at their desk. In order for a student to be able to get online and do instant research, without having to go to the library or check out a laptop, etc. is a huge asset to learning opportunities for our kids, and many teachers are taking advantage of that," he said.

The Board of Education is expected to discuss the proposal at their work session Monday night and vote on the measure Wednesday.

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