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District May Soon Allow Cellphones In School

School must board vote on policy change.

Students at the Minneapolis Public Schools may soon be able to bring their cellphones to school with them, in a move that could overturn years of entrenched policy.

Until now, devices that some parents might consider their child's "extra appendage" were banned from school. The draft policy would permit students in grades 6 through 8 to use their phones under direction from a teacher, regulations which would liberalize as a student moved into high school. Those students would be allowed to use cellphones during lunch, passing time, and as part of in-class exercises.

Using phones as part of a cyber bullying attack is covered by the district's current anti-bullying policy, Director of Policy Development Nan Miller said at last week's school board meeting.

The school board could vote on the proposed policy change as early as their Aug. 23rd meeting.

Along with district students — including members of the district's Citywide Student Government — technology booster and school board member Carla Bates has been an influential backer of the change.

In an interview with Southwest Minneapolis Patch earlier this year, she described how teachers in school districts across the country are using widely-available smartphone apps to for in-class pop quizzes, and to make lessons much more interactive.

While Bates' vision depends, in part, on widespread smartphone use among students in a district serving some of the poorest in the state, statistics suggest her vision is not too distant from reality.

While a study by the Nielsen Company, a media survey company, showed that only 33% of Americans age 15-24 owned a smartphone in the first half of last year, a telephone survey published earlier this year by consumer researchers Arbitron and Edison Research showed smartphone ownership among Americans had doubled in 2010. Furthermore, according to a second Neilsen study published in February, smartphones are a large and rapidly growing part of the phone market among American minorities, who make up a majority of the MPS student body.

JobyLynn Sassily-James August 15, 2011 at 02:07 PM
This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!! If the school district relies on Neilsen "studies" to make decisions that can adversely impact ALL students but put minorities at yet ANOTHER disadvantage I will have no faith in them whatsoever. To think that children will only use these phones during their "free time" is crazy! The ringtones that they use are not heard by adult ears so they will be using them whenever they want not to mention the texting. Speaking as someone who uses student workers at the U of M I can tell you what a horrible thing having cell phones permanently attached to the hand of kids is. When they reach college age, there is no getting them to put it down and they can not focus well without it. It is SO ingrained in the fabric of who they are at that point already and now we want to condone such use at an earlier age?!? I can't tell you how many times I drive through dinky town and have to slam on the breaks because someone is texting while walking and steps right off the curb into oncoming traffic. Young adults have DIED in this town from such behavior and you want to train them to be that way! As far as this rating that says that minorities have smart phones, I don't buy that AT ALL. I live in an area where families struggle to put food on the table and do not have such luxuries and I am not even in the poorest of neighborhoods. Do not make these families feel they need to pay for phones instead of food in order for their children to compete!!
ApplMuffn August 15, 2011 at 04:04 PM
I, myself, am still reeling from the knowledge that in a school district with a lower poverty rate than Minneapolis, students must get many of their assignments and "help" from an instructor's web page (notice the absence of the word teacher) -- many, many students DO NOT have computers at home and must rely on our libraries -- some do not live near a library or have parents available to get them there! Minneapolis, is about to do it again, crazy decision on a very, very faulty knowledge base. I know the district very well and they are operating at per usual levels -- goofiness to the max. I hope parents take a stand but it is rather unlikely as they are paying for this service to keep their children "connected" -- this isn't about the welfare and good educational practices, this is about peer pressure in all age groups! We are raising children who will no longer have the need for compassionate, human, face to face interaction -- they will not have the capacity to care about the needs of others on intimate levels that is needed to keep a healthy democratic society alive and growing...
James Sanna August 15, 2011 at 04:06 PM
The story does not say the district relied on Nielsen studies. Patch did independent research to give readers a rough sense of cellphones' prevalence among the student population, given that data specific to Minneapolis students, or specific to teenagers' ownership of smartphones is hard to come by. Furthermore, the story does not say the district is planning to require smartphone use as part of a change in curriculum: as the story says, under the proposed plan, cell phones may be used at the discretion of the teacher as part of a classroom exercise. The intent, as far as I have been told by advocates of the policy change, is to permit teachers and principals to experiment.
Chowenhouse August 16, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Policy, shmolicy -- this is a non-story. When a significant drop in my daughter's grades matched the frequency of her texting activity during class -- I took her phone away for a period. When I asked the principal at Southwest about phone use during class, his response was simply that kids and parents insisted. MPS gave up this ghost long ago.

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