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EDITOR’S CORNER: Less technology should improve LISD instructors’ bandwidth

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The following scenarios are purely hypothetical.
A man hurriedly runs around the house, looking frantic. His wife asks him why, and he says he needs to go to the bathroom. Flummoxed, she asks him why he’s running around the house looking under seat cushions, opening the refrigerator door and displacing the cat from his sunny spot on the rug.
“I can’t find my phone,” he wails. “What am I supposed to read? The shampoo bottle?”
Or, how about this one: Seven people are sitting in the living room at a party. Three are on the couch, two are sitting at the table and one is occupying an armchair.
But the room is nearly quiet. Everyone is fixated on the five-inch screens they’re holding in their hands. What should be a lively scene has all the energy and excitement of waiting for a 30-minute oil change.
It could be even worse. Imagine you’ve blindly plugged in the address of a destination you’ve never been to before that’s about 185 miles north of your house. About halfway there you stop to get some gas. Just a routine pit stop until the unthinkable happens.
You drop your phone in the parking lot. It shatters. And then rolls into a mud puddle.
It’s completely bricked and you’re not really sure where you’re going. You don’t remember the address, the street, the phone number or even the name of the location. You didn’t have to, because our phones remember these things for us.
Chances are, one of these entirely fictitious situations sounds at least feasible, if not relatable. We’re in the technology age, and it’s a grand time to be alive. The answers to many of life’s mysteries are at our fingertips and we’re not left to wonder, as long as we’re somewhere in reach of a cell tower.
But this year at Lockhart ISD schools, the clocks will be rolled back as the district introduces a new policy that bars student cell phone use while class is in session. As if they are in an episode of Stranger Things, elementary and middle schoolers will be transported back to 1985 once the school bell rings and class is in session. They’re allowed to have their phones on them, but they can’t power them on until the dismissal bell rings.
High schoolers have it a little easier. They get a break from what I’m sure will feel like technology desert hell for lunchtime, when they’re allowed to power on their phones and make calls … which, honestly, they probably never do. But that phone has to go dark again once lunch is over and must remain off until dismissal
The policy also bars phones from ever being used in bathrooms, locker rooms or changing areas, which makes sense, and introduces consequences for breaking the rules that range from parent-teacher conferences to fines and phone confiscation.
Why? Because the district actually wants kids to learn something while they’re in school. They want them to read the books, listen to the teacher and take notes on the lessons. They want them to make eye contact and communicate verbally with the people around them.
These are crucial skills that are likely becoming underutilized as technology improves. The brain’s cognitive capacity needs to be exercised, especially when it’s still growing and forming. Memory skills need to be pushed. Critical thinking needs to be practiced. Facts need to be retained.
And it’s not like the kids will be counting with abacuses. They’ll still be using tablets and computers during class to do research and assignments. They’ll get the positive attributes of screen time without the distractions of having a personal computer buzzing in their pockets demanding their attention.
To the parents who are apprehensive about not being able to call their kids during the day: It will be OK. Most of you made it through elementary school without a smartphone, right?
It might be too late for the high schoolers. I fully expect students over the age of 16 to re-glue themselves to their phones once school lets out for the day. But this is a chance for the next generation to maybe become a little less dependent on handheld technology.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll even learn what’s in their shampoo.

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