Phones over Yondr

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Phones over Yondr

OHS is piloting

OHS is piloting "yondr" bags in classrooms to help eliminate student distraction

Serena Omangi

OHS is piloting "yondr" bags in classrooms to help eliminate student distraction

Serena Omangi

Serena Omangi

OHS is piloting "yondr" bags in classrooms to help eliminate student distraction

By Cole Stanley, Owatonna High School

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In April 2019, a select few OHS teachers introduced the Yondr bags to their students. The Yondr bag is a new piece of equipment that is designed to limit the use of cell phones or smart devices. It is a small green and gray fiber bag with a magnetic pin lock, similar to what retail stores use on expensive merchandise. OHS leaders believe the best possible way to focus students’ attention on their subjects is to remove distractions. Another potential benefit of using Yondr bags is to reduce the amount of possible cheating and cyberbullying.

Although Yondr bags are only in a pilot period for the last quarter of the 2019 school year, they could be in full use starting the 2020-2021 school year. Principal Mark Randall said, “Students aren’t engaged in learning when they have access to their devices.” However, due to school funding, they would most likely have limited usage. Mr. Randall said, “Cost is going to be the biggest factor.” According to The Denver Post, “Ordering in bulk, the equipment costs around 20 dollars per bag.”  Similar to OHS laptops, usage would be for teachers requesting them, testing in classrooms, and in the office. Some faculty members believe a widespread use would be more effective. Liaison Officer Brady Vaith said, “It will cut down on student interruptions.”

When first introduced, the teachers piloting the Yondr bags reacted pleasantly. Family and consumer science teacher, Mrs. Jackie Getting, said, “My first reaction was excitement because it would help students focus in class.” As many teachers would agree, classroom distractions have become a major problem in school. Social students teacher, Mr. Dean Walters said, “In the last few years, our technology has progressed. Students and adults have come to abuse it.”

From a faculty perspective, teachers saw varied reactions of their students. Mrs.Getting said, “Students are generally positive about them.” However, some students quietly refused to lock their bags. Mrs. Getting said, “Some students are still suffering with anxiety about not having access to their phones.” To help gain student support, Yondr does offer part-time representative positions to students in participating schools. Yondr representative Alex Simmons saw encouraging signs from the teachers introducing the bags. Simmons said, “The teachers seemed genuinely excited and encouraging.”

Student reactions seemed to vary from supportive to concerned about the future use of the Yondr bags. Senior Matt Clark, a student who has used the Yondr bag, said, “I like the idea because it helps people focus in class.” Other students had less positive reactions. Some believe it is a violation of simple freedoms. Senior Gabby Buck, another student who has used the Yondr bag, said, “Although the bags are meant to focus student attention, they are also an unfair power advisors would hold over student’s personal properties.” Other students dislike the idea of losing access to their devices as well. When sophomore Lucas Robillard was introduced to the Yondr bag he said, “It is unfair for someone else to have such control over your own personal device.”

Some students brought out ideas that suggest an inefficiency in the Yondr system. Freshman Chevy Reno, a student who has handled the Yondr bags, said, “It will most likely bring out more attitude from the students and cause more harm than good.” Being that the majority of student phones are paid for by their parents, some would think it’s unfair to take away their child’s use of their devices, unless in specific situations. Parent Katie Marshall said, “It would only be really acceptable during testing, to prevent cheating.”

Between the student and staff mixed reactions, the limited use of Yondr bags would seem to fit both groups’ median. At the moment, teachers testing out the bags are completely in charge of how much they are used in this testing period, however, should they be used throughout the school, the rules regarding them are yet to be decided.

This story was originally published on Magnet on April 23, 2019.