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.