By Guest Writer, Daijah Young.

 Smart phones and school just don’t mix.  That’s what I was thinking when Mr. Orphal asked the class to get their phones out.

 How many times have teachers told me to put my phone away?  Usually, my teachers think that phones are a constant distraction.  They don’t want us texting—or even listening to music—while we work.  Even when I get my work done and want to use my phone for the last five or ten minutes of class, I get shut down.  “It’s a school rule,” the teacher says. Or, “There are other students still working, and I can’t tell them ‘No’ and then turn around and let you use yours.”

However, on this day, our phones weren’t a distraction.  They weren’t even a handy tool, like when I use the calculator app in math class.  Today, they were absolutely necessary to complete the task that Mr. Orphal had set out for us.

For the past two weeks, we have been researching Africa, specifically the country of Burkina Faso.  One of Mr. Orphal’s former students, a junior in our Education Academy, is traveling to Burkina Faso this summer with an organization called BuildON to help build a school.  My classmates and I are doing this research before we get started on the second part of our project: writing children’s books for the kids who are going to attend that new school.

Instead of giving us a handout or having us take notes during a lecture, Mr. Orphal had a series of questions we had to research using our phones.  We could have gone to the computer lab, but Mr. Orphal said that they were all reserved by other teachers, so our smart phones ended up being our link to the internet and the information we needed.  Besides, even if Mr. Orphal had been able to get us to the lab, I think using our phones actually got us working faster and longer since we didn’t waste any time walking to and from the computer room.

Doing research on our phones worked out great.  Not everyone in the room had a smart phone, but there were enough students so that everyone could either share or talk to each other about their findings.  At my table, three of the five students had phones, so we were constantly talking about the different sites we found. Everyone got answers to all of the questions they needed to answer that day.

Frankly, I really liked how we did our research.  If Mr. Orphal had done a lecture, I would have taken notes, but I probably wouldn’t have paid as much attention to what he was saying as he would have liked.  Using my phone was a lot more fun than reading a handout, too.  I honestly don’t know why.  As I was hunting for the information, I probably read as much on my phone as I would have read from a worksheet.  Somehow, though, this activity felt different.

Something else felt different, too.  By allowing us to use our phones to gather information, I felt like he really trusted me to use my phone the right way.  It felt like he wasn’t worried that I would be irresponsible.  It felt like he was treating me as an adult.

Daijah Young is a 10th Grader in Mr. Orphal’s Introduction to Education (CTE) class at Skyline High School in Oakland, CA.

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