Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Some Tampa Bay high schools allow cell phones to be used in class

Wiregrass Ranch High School senior Alex Coyle, 17, uses his cell phone in literature class.

Jeff Solochek | Times

Wiregrass Ranch High School senior Alex Coyle, 17, uses his cell phone in literature class.

WESLEY CHAPEL — Jennifer Gould ended her class announcements and told her students to take out their cell phones.

"I need at least three people who can get a signal in here," Gould said to her advanced placement literature class. "We're going to be studying the works of D.H. Lawrence, and I want you to find some things about him that you don't already know."

Nearly everyone whipped out a phone and began tapping away. Within moments, the teens were sharing their Internet discoveries.

"He lived during World War I."

"He had relationships with men and women."

"He lived the second half of his life in exile, considered a pornographer who had wasted his talents."

With each detail, Gould pulled her students deeper into a discussion about the author. When the talk had run its course, the students set their phones down and turned their attention to another author.

In a world where most high schools have adopted a "we see them, we take them" policy on cell phones, Pasco County's Wiregrass Ranch High School swims upstream.

It lets kids text and call and go online whenever they're not in class. That alone puts Wiregrass Ranch among a small group of Tampa area high schools with relaxed cell phone policies. Others are Largo and St. Petersburg in Pinellas County and River Ridge and Gulf in Pasco County.

But Wiregrass Ranch goes a step further.

It encourages teachers to allow students to use their phones in classes for educational purposes. Teens routinely use their phones to shoot pictures for projects, calculate math problems, check their teachers' blogs and even take lecture notes.

"That doesn't mean we don't have students who misuse the privilege," said principal Ray Bonti, who this summer distributed some recommended classroom uses for cell phones to teachers. "There are boundaries just like at every other high school. Those boundaries are just defined a little differently at Wiregrass Ranch High School."

If anyone's complaining, Bonti hasn't heard it. Parents, staffers and students alike have praised the school's many efforts to be technologically savvy, including giving students permission to use their personal laptops on campus, too, he said.

The school also has plenty of firewalls and filters in place.

Kids know they have something most other schools don't offer. And they love it.

"I think it's a good policy, because we're all pretty much adults here," senior Katie Everett said. "People are going to text no matter what. So I think it's good that the principal and staff here are being open and letting us use it for educational purposes."

Senior Eric LaGattuta, who attended Freedom High in Hillsborough before moving to Wiregrass Ranch, called his new school "ahead of the game."

"They're just following the rest of the world. It's going digital," he said, checking his phone for messages repeatedly during a short interview. "Once you're 16 or 17, there's things you need to know throughout the day. It was so inconvenient when I had to hide it all the time."

Many teachers agreed.

"They all have them anyway, and they're all dying to use them in class," said Spanish teacher Ariana Leonard, who admitted that she stores her life in her cell phone and uses it for a variety of functions. "If they're texting when they're supposed to be listening, I might tell them to put it away. But you might teach them a way to use it that might be applicable to their learning."

Students in her English for language learners class often use their phones to take pictures of items she says in English, to demonstrate they understood her.

Chemistry teacher Peter Skoglund said he barely pays attention to texting teens anymore. He expects students having cell phones out in his class to be using them for learning. If not, that's their problem.

Most don't abuse the right, he said, knowing they have plenty of time at lunch and in passing periods to take care of personal issues.

Gould shared that perspective. Last year, she said, trying to get kids to put away cell phones in class was a daily battle.

"Now, no," she said. "It doesn't infringe upon the education anymore."

The new rules have opened up a new world, she said. Teachers no longer have to wait for a school computer lab to get a quick research project done. The few students who don't have phones share in small groups, or use alternative school equipment.

One girl raised her hand in Gould's class during the D.H. Lawrence discussion and said, "As the only person in here without a phone, I have a question." It quickly got answered.

Allowing students to use their cell phones in class means things get done immediately, which translates into more efficient use of learning time, Gould said: "It puts the education in their hands."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

>>Fast facts

Cell phones in schools

A growing number of schools around the country are allowing students to use their cell phones in the classroom, to enhance their learning. Here's how students are using them:

• Students can text message missed assignments to classmates who are absent, using a buddy system.

• Students can use their cell phone's calendar and voice recording features in place of a notebook or day planner.

• Students who are slow copying notes from the board can take a picture of them to review later.

• Students can take pictures of class projects to e-mail or show to parents, who might not otherwise see group projects.

Some Tampa Bay high schools allow cell phones to be used in class 10/03/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 3:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Editorial: A proud moment for civic involvement in Hillsborough County

    Editorials

    It took private citizens less than 24 hours to do what their elected leaders in Hillsborough County could not for the past three months: Find the moral fortitude and the money to move a century-old Confederate war memorial from outside the county courthouse. Thursday's achievement was a lesson in leadership to county …

    The Hillsborough County Commission dithered for three months over moving the Memoria in Aeterna monument from the old county courthouse.
  2. Fort Myers woman arrested for doing cocaine off iPhone in parent pick-up line

    Bizarre News

    A Fort Myers woman was arrested Tuesday after police saw her snorting cocaine off her iPhone while in the parent pick-up line at a Lee County middle school.

    Christina Hester, 39, faces two different drug-related charges, according to police records. [Lee County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Tropical Storm Harvey forms in Atlantic

    Hurricanes

    UPDATE: At 5 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  4. Editorial: Pinellas should join lawsuit challenging new state law

    Editorials

    The Florida Legislature has been on a cynical, constitutionally dubious quest to render local school boards powerless. The most direct assault is a new state law that strips school boards of much of their authority when it comes to the creation and funding of charter schools. It's time for the Pinellas County School …

  5. Editorial: Fix funding unfairness in Florida foster care system

    Editorials

    Many of the children in Florida's foster care system already have been failed by their parents. The last thing these kids need is to be failed by bureaucracy, too, and yet that's exactly what appears to be happening because of a needlessly rigid funding formula set up by the Florida Legislature. Child welfare agencies …

    The Legislature may have had good intentions when it came up with the funding plan, but it’s obvious that there is some unfairness built into it. The funding may be complicated, but the goal is simple: Making sure every child in need gets the help he or she needs.