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Sep 22, 2016

Can You Hear Me Now?

PSCS Institutes School Wide Phone Zone

On the first day of the 2016-17 school year Puget Sound Community School (PSCS) instituted its first ever, school-wide Phone Zone in an attempt to keep the distraction of phones out of the classroom and to help students and staff be more mindful about their use during the school day.

All students are asked to check their phone in at the start of school (9am) and to keep them stored in a “caddy” near the entrance during the day. The Phone Zone is a small standing-room-only space that students are free to visit in between classes or in open periods. (Students are encouraged to take their phones with them at lunchtime or whenever off campus.) In the Phone Zone, students are permitted to check email, social media, text, etc—as long as they get to class on time, don’t leave the Zone with them, and as long they honor the school’s Code of Conduct, Media (see below).

PSCS founder and director, Andy Smallman, along with the staff, came up with the idea of a Phone Zone based on the ideas of several smaller groups of students who experimented last year by checking in their phones. “We have had a lot of students express interest in ways to curb the distraction and the pacifying effect of smartphones during the school day.”

PSCS is a collaborative school–students work with each other, and with advisors, to build the school course schedule each term. They also take part in Advisory groups where they discuss issues like cell phone use at school. “A huge part of the PSCS philosophy is built around integrity and community, which then leads to self motivation and self awareness. We are also all about letting kids get a little bored so they try new things and become fully engaged human beings! Smartphones have usurped some of our innate urge to engage and have created a bit of a pacifier, which is detrimental to the way PSCS functions.”

There are some instances in which a phone may still be necessary for a class:  PSCS teaching staff member, Liana Green, asks students to have them in music classes requiring a Metronome App, and teaching staff member Nic Warmenhoven asks students to bring them to his Make Tiny Films class. And for the most part, students at PSCS don’t appear to be disgruntled about the experiment.

Senior, Margaux Bouchegnies is all for it, “I’ve noticed more of us really present in our environment. I also like that we can make the choice to go and check [our phones] when we need to.

Recognizing that some students may not be as vocal about not liking it, school secretary, Samuel Mitchell noted that “Most of our students don’t seem upset at all and are actually happy to be unencumbered by the urge to text or check their status. I notice they are so much more mindful of disengaging from the community in order to use them.”

Excerpt from the PSCS Code of Conduct, Media

Guidelines to follow when members of the PSCS community are representing or making reference to PSCS (direct or even indirect) in socially mediated spaces, regardless of whether these are considered professional or personal spaces:

  • Cyber-bullying will not be tolerated. Don’t be mean. Don’t send emails, post comments or otherwise engage with the intent of scaring, hurting, or intimidating someone else.
  • Students, parents, and staff should work together to understand the risks associated with the taking, using, sharing, publication, and distribution of images. As such, PSCS students must not take, use, share, or publish images of others without explicit consent.
  • Be respectful, responsible, and kind.

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