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Phone use put on hold when class is in session

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Technology is rapidly evolving. People today can plug dates into virtual calendars, listen to music and take photos all on the same device. People around the world use their BlackBerrys, iPhones and other smartphones constantly.

Pocahontas County High School students are no exception. Recently, though, the school has been more strictly enforcing its "no cellphone" policy. Students have been put under pressure to keep their technological devices out of the classroom and in their lockers.

Teachers have been asked to take a student's phone if they see it out during class. Vice Principal Derek Lambert said the big push is because the policy is not being enforced. He has not seen a policy like this at other schools, but said while it is in place, he will enforce it.

Another reason for the push is the consequences of cellphone use. If students acquire the school's Wi-Fi password, they could use it for cheating or other inappropriate Internet behavior.

Senior Patrick Martin said he understands why the school has the policy. However, he thinks the school overemphasizes the use of phones and feels that the policy is too far-reaching.

Some students are very protective of their phones and refuse to turn them in. Lambert said if there is reasonable suspicion that something inappropriate is on a student's phone, the phone is allowed not only to be taken, but also searched.

The same policy goes for teachers. Although it is not stated in the teacher's handbook, teachers are expected to abide by the same cellphone use policy as the students.

Junior Lorena Rose doesn't mind the policy.

"I don't like cellphones. I think they're a distraction," she said. "We don't have cellphone service here. People shouldn't have them out."

Lambert disagrees. He said that, despite the policy, he believes technology is an asset to education. For example, the West Virginia Department of Education uses Twitter to distribute information about education.

Lambert said a Twitter account for Pocahontas County High School would be beneficial. The school could tweet about events and academics.

Though he will enforce the policy as it stands, he would like to see it alleviated so that students could access the Internet and Twitter from their cell phones while at school. This way, the school could take advantage of students' interest in technology and use social networking sites to motive them to become more invested in their education. 

Martin agrees with the concept of the policy. However, he said if a student is using his or her phone for school purposes, there should be no punishment.

Gary Beverage, the school's technology specialist, explained that when a device is brought into the school, it immediately tries to connect to the Internet. If it connects to the Internet, it acquires an IP address, and the school offers limited IP addresses.

He compared the school's Internet to a highway. He said that the highway could be moving fine until you put a tractor-trailer on the road. Cellphones and iPods are the tractor-trailers of the Internet.

Beverage said the school is currently trying to increase the size of its Internet pipeline so devices that connect to the Internet will not pose so much of a problem. This process will take time and cooperation, though.


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