No cell phone? No problem… students benefit from limitations

Venture Heights Elementary School students Kylie Hackl, Kaylee Ayotte, Lexi Hradecki and Jada Kennon work on their presentation on cell phone limitations at their school

Cell phones are off-limits to students at Venture Heights Elementary School in Martensville during school hours.
The kids turn their devices in at the beginning of the day to their teacher, and get them back when the final bell rings in the afternoon.
And ironically, the overwhelming majority of phone-addicted youngsters are more than happy to comply.
“My grades have gone up this year, because I don’t have to worry about answering a text or checking social media,” said Grade 8 student Kylie Hackl. “It gives me a chance to pay attention in class and focus on what the teacher is saying.”
Hackl and her classmates Kaylee Ayotte, Lexi Hradecki and Jada Kennon are putting together a presentation for other schools in Prairie Spirit School Division (PSSD), as well as for the regional RCMP detachment, on the school’s cell phone policy.
Grade 8 teacher Michael Zintel and Venture Heights Principal Ron Biberdorf are helping the kids with the project.
Banning cell phones was a policy that was phased in over the past three years.
“When we received our technology grant from the school division in 2014-15, we put that money towards purchasing devices like chromebooks and iPads for each classroom,” said Biberdorf in an interview on Thursday, November 23. “There are enough of those devices in each classroom that there is no reason for students to use their own devices for research or study purposes.
“The school is ultra-connected in so many ways.”
Each classroom also has a dedicated cell phone. If a parent needs to contact their child for any reason, they phone the school office and their call is redirected to the appropriate classroom.
“Basically what we’re trying to do here is give the kids a break,” said Biberdorf. “We’re saying to them: ‘when you’re here at school, you don’t have to be anxious. You don’t have to worry about your cell phone.”
Biberdorf said the goal is to encourage students to pay attention in class; improve their social skills during recess and other social interactions in corridors and the playground; and to “give them a break from the pressure” of feeling like they have to constantly respond to their cell phone notifications.
“A research study done recently in Alberta surveyed 30,000 students,” said Biberdorf. “The findings showed the level of child anxiety over the last few years has gone through the roof due to cell phone use; whether they’re being cyber-bullied or getting texts that are worrisome, it’s clear cell phones are a source of anxiety.
“Even just having the cell phone buzz away in your pocket is very distracting.
“It’s something extra they feel they have to attend to rather than paying attention in class.”
Biberdorf said the regional RCMP school liaison officer has confirmed that cell phone use is problematic in schools.
“The vast majority of time the RCMP officer goes to a school to deal with a situation, the cell phone is either the primary issue or a secondary issue,” said Biberdorf.
“Cyber-bullying is the biggest concern.”
Biberdorf said the school also implemented the policy to align with an existing “no-cell phone” policy at Martensville High School.
“Last year, when our Grade 8s went to the orientation at the high school, the principal and vice-principal collected their cell phones at the beginning of the orientation and gave them back to them at the end of the session,” said Biberdorf.
“We realized we needed to do something similar.”
The Venture Heights students’ presentation is expected to be completed soon and will be available to other schools looking to implement similar policies.