Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

August 27, 2012

Changing times

Students at Tahlequah High School now have limited access to their cellphones during the school day.

TAHLEQUAH — When Tahlequah High School Principal Jeff Thorne proposed a 30-day experiment giving students “free zones” for texting and listening to music at school, a few teachers probably thought he’d lost his academic marbles.

Thorne’s theory is just one example of how school administrators across the country are working to eliminate distractions while also taking full advantage of the good that comes from technology.

“I had some push-back from teachers,” said Thorne. “Some faculty did not like the idea, but they’re not embracing the technology of the new age. Sixty years ago, television was ‘evil,’ it was ‘of the devil,’ all this kind of stuff. Is it? It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s like everything else; it’s a tool, and it all depends on how you use it. We have to stop fighting technology and use it.”

The experiment kicked off last week after Thorne made presentations to district administrators, the Tahlequah School Board of Education, and THS teachers and students. So far, the feedback has been especially welcome among students.

“It’s definitely better for freshmen coming in to a big school like this. Some of them come in from little tiny country schools, and being able to text your friends, people you know, at lunch and say, ‘Hey, where are you?’ helps a lot,” said THS freshman Seth Campbell. “I noticed the whole attitude of school is just more relaxed because everybody’s not tensed up. At lunch, it’s quiet; everybody’s on their phones, not yelling across the room.”

Campbell and others at THS witnessed an immediate change in students’ attitudes around campus in the first week of the experiment.

“I think it was a nuisance before, because you couldn’t use your phone in the halls, and it was definite that you were going to get caught; but now that you have the option to check your text messages in the halls, you really have no reason to do it in class,” said THS senior Travis Hooper. “You’d think that once they started this everybody would be on the phone all the time, but that’s not the case. A lot of people don’t use them. I think it has cut down on students wanting to use their phones in class.”

Students must have their cell phones on silent or vibrate modes at all times. Between classes and during lunch hours, students can text and can listen to music using one earbud.

“That’s a safety issue,” said Thorne. “If you have both earbuds in, I can’t tell you the school’s on fire.”

Phone calls aren’t allowed, but Campbell and Hooper both said they wouldn’t want to talk on the phone while walking down the hall, anyway.

Thorne hopes to see the test project cut down on classroom interruptions from students who receive a text message and feel an urge to sneak a peek.

“Our whole society is based on cell phones. Students all have a cell phone, whether it’s a smart phone or not. When it vibrates in their pocket, everybody’s just dying to see who’s calling. ‘Is that my girlfriend, is that my ride?’ So everybody would try to sneak a cell phone out and then get in trouble in the classroom. It’s natural,” said Thorne. “By allowing students to be responsible and use their phones at the appropriate time and method, I think it’s a better deal for everybody. If I give them a window, a ‘free zone’ after class, out in the passing period, they can wait until class is over. I think that’s rational, that’s real.”

Tahlequah Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Presley said school districts around the U.S. are trying to embrace technology to keep up with the ever-changing world – a world in which the U.S. is, in many ways, lagging behind other countries. She also realizes there must be limits, and administrators will be watching for issues that could bring a quick end to the project.

“This is seen as a privilege. If we find students misusing their cell phones, the whole concept will be reconsidered,” said Presley. “We’re going to experiment with it.”

Thorne calls it the “carrot-stick” approach, in which administrators offer something all students will want, while also explaining that abuse of the privileges can lead to something none of them want.

“This cannot take the place of education. If you stand out in the hall texting and are tardy, that’s a problem,” said Thorne. “If we have a huge increase in cyberbullying, or an increase in pornography or inappropriate websites, I’ll just stop the program.”

If the phones are used to capture video on the campus, and those videos end up online, that can also end the experiment.

“Any disruption to the educational process and I can stop this. That’s the bottom line,” said Thorne. “The kids all seemed to recognize that when I spoke to them. I think that the kids are respectful of that because I’m trying to respect their situation.”

Thorne believes administrators will ultimately take what they learn from the month-long project and alter the guidelines to address any noticeable problems. From there, he expects many teachers will find opportunities to introduce cell phones into their classrooms.

“Technology has changed and the new smart phone in the kids’ pocket is more powerful than the computer five years ago,” said Thorne. “Students’ smart phones can replace classroom equipment that we already have in short supply, and in the right situations, students can use their cell phones as research tools, but the teacher still has control in the classroom. The student handbook talks about what happens if you don’t do right with your cell phone. If you abuse the rules, your cell phone can be confiscated. The students have to respect that. That’s part of the learning process.”

Campbell and other students at THS have been allowed, on occasion, to use cell phones for research or other assignments. Though not all teachers are on board with that method, administrators recognize the educational process is quickly headed in that direction.

“To get to those goals, we have to start somewhere,” said Thorne.

Freshman Cara Nichols said she’s seen students respond respectfully toward teachers who might not be as open to using cell phones in the class.

“The students are pretty good about not using them in class if the teachers don’t want them to,” she said.

Though it’s not always true, students said the younger teachers at THS generally seem to be more accepting of cell phones in class than the older teachers.

Thorne hopes the experiment encourages students and teachers of all ages at THS to embrace the tools they have, and to continue easing into new educational experiences.

“If positive things come out of it, I’m all in favor. We just have to be careful that the negative things don’t outweigh the positive,” he said. “If students do the right thing, I’ll keep helping them. The only way to learn responsibility is to be given a privilege; you earn it, and if you don’t earn it, it’s taken back.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • sr-NSU-Earth-day.jpg NSU students observe Earth Day

    Students and members of the community converged on Northeastern State University’s Second Century Square on Tuesday to spend an afternoon celebrating Earth Day.
    The event featured tables sponsored by campus organizations, prizes and music by Chris Espinoza. NSU’s Earth Day theme was “Gather Here. Go Green,” and was organized by the Committee for Sustainability and the Northeastern Student Government Association (NSGA).

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts-smallholders-courtesy.jpg Rural smallholders host annual show

    More and more, many people are showing growing interest in learning the sources of their food, including meat. As such, interest in farm-to-table living is increasing.
    Saturday, the Rural Smallholders Association held its annual spring show at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds, promoting the farming of sheep and goats, along with giving the general public a sample of their products.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • pitts-hurley.jpg Wanted man nabbed during traffic stop

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies arrested a wanted man this week after a traffic stop near South Muskogee and Willis Road.
    Hurley D. Pitts, 40, was being sought by authorities on a motion to revoke a previous sentence.
    Sheriff’s Deputy Jarrick Snyder said he stopped a car after it ran off the road a couple of times. A woman was behind the wheel, and Pitts was sitting in the passenger seat.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-Wikafile.jpg Communiversity Band performs Sunday

    Musicians from on and off the Northeastern State University campus have made their final preparations for an upcoming performance of the NSU Communiversity Band.
    The ensemble performs Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m., in the NSU Center for the Performing Arts. The conductor is Dr. Norman Wika, associate professor of music and band program director. Guest conductor is student Kameron Parmain. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
    “Everything has come together very well this semester,” Wika said.
    “We have about 40 musicians, and everyone who started the rehearsals has stuck with it. This could be the best Community Band concert yet.”

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Council concerned over reports of land contamination

    Negotiations involving the purchase of nearly 20 homes on 7 acres of land near Basin Avenue hit a snag Monday night when concerns surfaced over potential contamination of the area.
    Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols had proposed the city purchase the homes and duplexes as a large step in a greenbelt project, which would establish a solid park and trail system from the downtown area to the site of the city’s old solid waste transfer station.
    Until Monday, details of the negotiations had been mostly discussed behind closed doors, though Nichols confirmed the list price for the property to be $480,000.

    April 23, 2014

  • Council tables cell tower permit apps

    Tahlequah city councilors on Monday opted to hold off on approval of two special-use permit applications that would help AT&T install a couple of 150-foot cell towers within the city.
    Branch Communications is asking for the permits as it attempts to construct two monopole cell towers – one on Commercial Road near Green Country Funeral Home, and another at the Tahlequah Public Schools bus barn on Pendleton Street. Other towers are being built outside of the city limits.
    Members of the city’s planning and zoning board gave their OK for both permits last month.

    April 23, 2014

  • SR-WalkaMile1.jpg Walk a Mile 2014

    Men squeezed into feminine footwear Saturday by the hundreds to walk in solidarity with women on the issue of sexual violence – and their clop-clop-clopping echoed down Muskogee Avenue.
    The fourth annual “Walk a Mile In Her Shoes” brought men to Norris Park, accompanied by their enthusiastic female supporters, to walk – and often wobble – in high heels over a mile-long course to raise funds for Help-In-Crisis.
    “It hurts every year,” said John Christie, a Sequoyah High School student participating in his third Walk a Mile. “I get home, sit down, blisters come up and the calves hurt. But it is worth it. It’s for a good cause.”

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • adams-christopher.jpg Michigan man gets 13 years on plea to rape, sodomy of girl

    A 28-year-old Michigan man will spend about 13 years in an Oklahoma state prison after pleading guilty to four counts of first-degree rape and one count of sodomy involving a 13-year-old girl.
    Christopher Dale Adams, of Lake Orion, Mich., received a 13-year prison sentence for each of the five charges, to be followed by seven years suspended. All sentences will run concurrently.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • logan-amy.jpg Police take down pair on pot distribution charge

    Tahlequah police officers arrested a pair Sunday night for allegedly possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute it.
    Tahlequah Officer Cody Warren said police were asked to investigate when 35-year-old Amy N. Logan, of Tahlequah, allegedly took a family member’s car without permission.
    While Warren was speaking with the owners of the vehicle, Logan arrived along with 26-year-old Theoplilus James Mollie, of Tulsa.

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • land-lisa.jpg Two nailed with meth, pot hidden in bag of chips

    Two people were arrested early Monday morning when Tahlequah police stopped a vehicle near Basin Avenue and found methamphetamine and marijuana hidden in a bag of chips.
    Tahlequah Officer Cory Keele said he noticed a Nissan heading north on Park Hill Road, and the vehicle later stopped in an intersection.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

How confident are you that the immunizations for infants and children are reasonably safe?

Not at all confident.
Somewhat confident.
Relatively confident.
Extremely confident.
undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Stocks