Log-out, unplug, tune in

Walk into any Hancock County classroom and you will see students using technology as a part of their learning process. Whether it’s a computer, iPad, Chromebook or their own personal devices, students are plugged in throughout the school day. While most students are able to manage their devices appropriately, others struggle with how to turn off the games, videos and social media while tuning in to teachers and academic instruction.

Recently, A & E premiered a show, “Undercover High,” on its network. Seven participants in their early 20s secretly went back to high school as students to see how much the high school environment had changed since they graduated. They were amazed how much the use of cell phones and social media affected today’s schools environment and its students. One participant, Shane Feldman, shared with Business Insider: “The kinds of challenges that I experienced in high school along with my peers are now 24/7 issues because of technology, computers, cell phones and social media. There’s no real escape.” Feldman graduated in 2012 — just six years ago.

I have to concur with Feldman’s assessment. Students who can’t turn off the devices and who choose not to engage with people directly throughout the day, often get caught up in the drama of social media apps, texting and instant messaging. They wage battles indirectly because it feels emotionally safer at the time, except it’s a constant barrage from other drama seekers. They either don’t sleep enough at night because they can’t put the phone or computer away, or they can’t focus in school because the Internet is waiting for them around every corner. Teachers struggle to maintain those students’ academic attention and it is a frustrating situation for both parents and the school.

Some schools have started to address this issue by using devices that lock away the student’s personal cell phone during school hours. As students enter the building, they stop at a station where they are given a pouch for their phone. The pouch is then locked. The students carry their pouches with them all day, but they have no access to their devices. They retrieve their phones from the locked pouches at the end of school. San Lorenzo High School in California said they have seen discipline issues decline dramatically (down 82 percent) and academic performance improve drastically since implementing such a program.

This idea of disconnecting from cell phones has even taken over the adult world. Some courts and concert venues are using these same locked pouches for adults to unplug while they either conduct business or enjoy an evening out. I certainly understand this would be a major culture shift for our families as many parents are used to being able to reach their children at any given time, me included. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, however, for us to rethink limiting those distractions. When I was in school, if my parents needed to reach me during the day, they called the school office, and I got a paper message delivered to me.

Please don’t get me wrong — I fully support the use of appropriate technology in our K-12 classrooms. We live in a society, good or bad, that requires an extensive technology skill set. But, our children must learn to manage the best and worst parts of technology. They must understand and be able to implement a sense of delayed gratification. They must figure out that social media should supplement their social life, not BE their social life, but most importantly, they must learn that engaging with people one-on-one or in a group is more important than interfacing with electronic devices. Some things just can’t be learned by looking at a screen.

Kim Kile is the director of school counseling at Greenfield-Central High School. She can be reached at kimskile@gmail.com. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com