Why an Island teacher told students to leave their phones on during class

An Island teacher is hoping a recent exercise on cellphone etiquette will encourage his students to be more mindful about how and when they use their devices.

Hundreds of notifications were received in less than an hour

Students in a classroom at Charlottetown Rural were recently told to keep their cellphones on to track how many notifications they received during class. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

An Island teacher is hoping a recent exercise on cellphone etiquette will encourage his students to be more mindful about how and when they use their devices.

Stan Chaisson is a leadership and physical education teacher at Charlottetown Rural.

He says usually students are asked to keep their phones put away during class unless they're being used as part of a lesson.

Chaisson says he'll be pleased if his experiment encourages his students to think more critically about when and where they use their phones. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

He recently instructed his students to keep their phones on during class and track all the notifications they received in a 45-minute period.  

"The main point was just to have a conversation with students about how phones, if not used responsibly, they can be a major distraction in schools," Chaisson said.

"But also to expand on that conversation and talk about how there's an etiquette to using technology and devices."

'Easy to get distracted'

Chaisson said by the end of the experiment, the notifications were in the hundreds — mainly from Snapchat, but also text messages and alerts from other social media. He said the numbers surprised him but not his students.

Grade 11 student Adam MacKenzie said his phone went off a lot during that period and the experience has left him thinking it might be best to leave his phone in his locker during class.

Grade 11 student Adam MacKenzie says his phone went off about 10 times during the experiment. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

"Ten notifications in one class is a lot," MacKenzie said. "And it is definitely easy to get distracted because when you get a notification on your phone it's not easy to just leave it and not respond to it."

"It wasn't that surprising because we're always on our phones," said his classmate, Grade 12 student Darien Burke, who agreed that for many, it's not easy to leave notifications unanswered.

"It's really hard, honestly. Personally I always have to look."

Grade 12 students Dakota Boudreault and Darien Burke say that the experiment was eye-opening, but disagree on whether or not it will change how much they use their cellphones. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

Burke appreciates the reasons behind the lesson but doesn't believe many students will change their behaviour as a result of the experience.

'Get away from the phone'

Her friend Dakota Boudreault, however, said that after seeing the number of notifications her classmates received in such a short period of time, she plans to be "less connected" moving forward.

"I want to keep myself busier with my life, make more plans, go outside, do more social activities," said Boudreault.

A photo of teacher Stan Chaisson's blackboard after an experiment with students who were instructed to leave their phones on in class. (Stan Chaisson)

"And just get away from the phone because ... it just encourages bad things I think."

Chaisson said he'll be pleased if his experiment encourages his students to think more critically about how easily their phones can become a distraction — and what kind of impact that has not just on their studies, but their health and well-being.

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About the Author

Jessica Doria-Brown


Jessica Doria-Brown is a videojournalist with CBC in P.E.I. Originally from Toronto, Jessica has worked for CBC in Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, and Ontario.


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