The Seven Summits Centre for Learning (7S) wants students to turn off their cellphones in class.
The school is in consultation with parents this month to determine the future for smartphones on its premises.
“It’s more about giving students back their time and giving them a sense of freedom rather than taking their devices away and ‘banning’ cell phones,” says Joyce Oostindie, administrator at Seven Summits Centre for Learning.
“We understand the phenomenal pull of a smartphone, even when it’s switched off in a pocket or turned upside down on a desk. Our aim is to empower students, give them the opportunity to take a break from social media, engage meaningfully with each other and look up from their screens.”
“Our close-knit learning community is like family,” adds Ann Quarterman, the centre’s operations manager. “Board members, teachers and staff have discussed this incredibly positive initiative at length and do feel that it would be in the best interests of our students. We now want parents to have their say and be fully on board to ensure any new policy made has their complete buy-in and support.”
Under the rules first distributed to parents, cell phones will be confiscated if they are not checked in.
A first offense would mean a student can pick up their phone from the administrator at the end of the day. Upon a second offense, the device must be picked up by a parent/guardian. Refusal to immediately give up the device to a staff member will result in parents being asked to pick up the student and keep them at home until they agree to adhere to this policy.
Schools around the world are implementing a wide range of smartphone policies, from total bans to out-of-sight invisibility rules — all with huge success, Seven Summits says. While protecting children from digital harms, removing the distraction of mobile phones encourages students to become more sociable, alert, focused and active as well as ready to learn at every opportunity, they say.
If a new cell phone policy is introduced at Seven Summits Centre for Learning following the parent consultation period, then students in Grades 8 to 12 will be required to check in their devices at 9 a.m. and place them in secure storage until 3 p.m.
Parents would still be able to contact their sons and daughters during class hours by phoning the centre and speaking to staff. Students, however, could request access to their phones during lunch hour if they wish.
“It’s a common misconception that we are an online learning facility because we deliver a high school education so differently,” Quarterman says.
“We fully harness technology in the pursuit of knowledge but always strive to maintain a healthy balance that ultimately improves young people’s experience of their high school education.
“These values will be reflected in any new mobile phone policy introduced and only after a full parent consultation period which has been initiated, and is due to end mid-February.”
Initial reactions from parents have been overwhelmingly supportive.
“I’m grateful to see that 7S is investing in helping students disconnect from the distraction of their devices,” says 7S parent Val Legler. “I hope the new policy helps kids continue to develop crucial face-to-face social skills. My son will have six hours free from the non-stop barrage of bad news alerts and have more time to connect with his peers and stay focused on his academics.”
“We fully support any move towards implementing a stricter cell phone policy at 7S,” adds parent Shannon Ketel. “We believe that the administration has our son’s best interests in mind and wants to optimize his learning experience by putting boundaries on his cell phone usage.”
Researchers say the phenomenal pull of mobile phones has been demonstrated in studies which found people’s concentration could be disrupted easily, even by the presence of a switched-off phone on their desks.
In two tests of cognitive ability involving 800 people, participants who left their switched off phones outside the room achieved “statistically significant” better results than those who left them in their pockets who, in turn, scored higher than those who left them on their desks.