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Buxton School makes the call, bans smartphones on campus starting in the fall – Berkshire Eagle

Smartphones

WILLIAMSTOWN — No more Snapchat in biology. No more TikTok in the lunchroom. Instagram in history class? It’s a thing of the past.

The progressive boarding and college preparatory Buxton School has notified faculty and students that, as of the start of the fall 2022 semester, smartphones will not be allowed on campus. At all. Since most of the students live on campus, that is effectively a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week ban on the devices.

Buxton, founded in 1928, serves about 65 students, and employs about 30 staff and faculty.



Buxton School, founded in 1928, serves about 65 students, and employs about 30 staff and faculty.



The ban primarily targets social media use on smartphones, because of the constant temptation to respond or initiate social media posts at inappropriate times, especially during classroom discussion.

School officials also hope it will free up more cerebral bandwidth to allow expanded focus on subject matter, the thoughts of teachers, as well as collaborative activities with other students.

“We meet with the faculty every single day, and this topic comes up all the time because we can see what’s happening,” said Peter Beck, Buxton’s head of school. He noted that this tactic has been under discussion for several years.

He said students — the school teaches high school age-children — “are spending so much time in a virtual world, we decided that, for everyone’s sake, we needed to make a hard but necessary change.”

Beck said that the internet is accessible through students’ and school computers, so, its resources and social media still will be available, just not 24 hours a day from a pocket or purse.



Buxton School isn’t the first to go this route, but it is a perceived rarity, at least in the U.S.



Buxton School isn’t the first to go this route, but it is a perceived rarity, at least in the U.S.

In July 2018, the French government passed a law banning cellphones in schools. Several other private and public schools in the U.S. have done so.

In May 2015, a study published by the Center for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science, “Technology, Distraction & Student Performance,” tracked the impact of banning smartphones at schools on exam scores. It was concluded that students living with school phone restrictions did better on test scores, with low-performing students seeing higher benefits.

According to the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of American adults own a cellphone, and 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone.

Beck explained that, as a school that hosts students all day and night, it is a situation where every staff member and student has a role in the school community, all part of the mission to expose students to social skills and community-building tactics. He is sure that with the absence of smartphones, those lessons will be more effective.

The reaction, he said, has been overwhelmingly positive, although there has been some criticism, and while initial reactions from some students were negative, many have come around to become more understanding of the goal.

In a letter to the School Committee, signed by Beck, the faculty and the board of trustees, the impetus for the ban seemed obvious: “The list of reasons is long and familiar to all of us at this point. Constant access to everyone and everything — pinged directly into our pockets, into our ears, onto our wrists — is not helping us to know and love ourselves, know and love each other. It doesn’t give anyone any space, time, or quiet — all essential aspects of the wellbeing that we are trying to cultivate here.”



The reaction to the ban on smartphones on campus, Head of School Peter Beck says, has been overwhelmingly positive, although there has been some criticism, and while initial reactions from some students were negative, many have come around to become more understanding of the goal.



With students at Buxton having grown up in the smartphone environment, Beck said he understands that this is a “dramatic lifestyle change. It’s a hard change, but people understand it has to happen.”

“We’ve seen how addictive smartphones are,” said Linda Burlak, a science teacher at Buxton. “We’ve seen how much they pull everyone away from each other.”

According to history teacher John Kalapos, with smartphones on campus, “it’s hard to keep their attention. It’s hard to engage in long-form ideas. And some of the best ideas come out of boredom, but with smartphones, nobody gets bored, because they’re perpetually caught in a mediocre state of constant entertainment.”

He hopes that it will lead to more collaborative, on-the-spot projects, like a dance party or a play.

“Things like that, we can do together, and it’s so much more fun,” Kalapos said.

Several students told The Eagle that, initially, they were taken aback by the smartphone restrictions. But, upon further reflection, they came around.

Quote

“At first, I was really against it. I wondered how would I reach people; I felt kind of trapped. Now, I’m on board with it — there will be more room for new experiences and new kinds of connections we aren’t used to.”

— Eliza Goldsteen, a junior at Buxton School in Williamstown

“At first, I was really against it,” said Eliza Goldsteen, a junior at the school. “I wondered how would I reach people; I felt kind of trapped. Now, I’m on board with it — there will be more room for new experiences and new kinds of connections we aren’t used to.”

Sophomore Demi Cuello said that, after thinking about it for a bit, she realized that all the apps and social media platforms add up to a situation where “they’re telling you what to think, inflicting their influence on you.”

Flip phones and other phones that do not connect to the internet or allow texting still are allowed at the school. And Beck said school staff is exploring ideas to replace smartphones’ essential creative functions, like cameras and music, which can be employed by students to their benefit.

The letter to the school community concludes: “Consciously setting aside a technology that’s not helping us is a step forward, not a step backward. We’re not idealizing or trying to recreate the past at Buxton. We’re helping shape its future, and the futures of the communities around us. Just like we have for the last hundred years, just like we hope to for a hundred more.”

Source: https://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/northern_berkshires/buxton-school-bans-smartphones-on-campus/article_a5f907ae-936f-11ec-9206-f3ec604b87b0.html

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