It's 2019, Where do we stand on cell phones?


Trello blog in my inbox today with a counter-point on multi-tasking…


That’s an interesting article, Leslie, thanks for posting it. I’ve been dissatisfied with the claim that “multitasking doesn’t work” for many of the reasons the article gets at: It’s more complex that simply saying that doing two things at once doesn’t work. Multitasking as a term seems insufficient.

I was reading another book that talked about when the brain does two activities at once, it puts the less focused activity on a Channel 2, where it only jumps to our attention if something important comes up, and the other activity goes on our main Channel and gets our attention. The article talking about exercising and brainstorming would fit into this sort of multitasking.


I liked the article and I think it gives more clarity to the conversation. Thanks for sharing, Leslie. One quote that I think sums up the take-away from the article and studies they cite:

The secret to using multitasking to make better use of your time ultimately lies in finding tasks that don’t cause a huge amount of conflict with each other—like the above exercise examples.

“In other words, you can multitask as long as you’re doing two things that don’t tax the same parts of your brain,” explains Bregman, “Email while on a conference call? Bad idea. But exercise and commuting? It’s a perfect multitasking marriage.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. Unfortunately I think what we encounter most often with students are those tasks that do not align (like working on your math project while trying to carry on exchanging snapchat messages on your phone). That kind of thing is probably more appropriately called “task switching” than multitasking.


Yes, I totally agree Ben


Here’s something pretty cool:


I downloaded it today and started using it. Pretty fun, you create a forest as you go, and the app has some kind of paid feature where users can plant actual real trees in the world, which is awesome if you ask me.

Update: now on Day 2 of using this app. I also upgraded to the full version ($1.99) to remove ads & get access to all the goodies. Gamified productivity, pretty fun so far.


Glad you resurrected this thread. I changed the title so it can keep going. My thoughts are still evolving on all of this.


I showed my daughter this last night and she started using it right away. Later when I checked in she said, “I grew two trees.” I’ll keep talking with her about it and see if it sticks.

I feel like I’m pretty good at setting my phone aside, but it’s a cool idea for an app.


And this just in…

The World Health Organization will classify gaming addiction as a disorder in its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD).


Makes me wonder how long before cell phone addiction becomes a diagnosed disorder.

I actually just had a student tell me yesterday that if it wasn’t for his cell phone he probably would have graduated last year. This same student cannot help himself and definitely has issues with “phantom vibration syndrome” as he described to me that he thinks his cell phone is vibrating even when it isn’t. I tried to convince him to turn the cell phone off but it actually makes his anxiety worse because he feels like he’s missing out on important social interactions. When I had him put it into a calculator keeper at the front of the room all he could do is stare at the area which meant he could not focus on his classwork at all.


I wonder how quickly this would straighten itself out, or if it would take quite a while to break free?

Starting in December, I decided to make my bedroom digital free. The first couple of mornings I was surprised to wake up really early, reach for my phone, and get stressed that I couldn’t check my email. After three days, however, I was sleeping more and better and not waking up. The digital “connection” broke pretty quickly.


Natasha Adams shared an idea with the NECA team this morning regarding cell phone management. This sounds fairly compelling to me and I think could be an acceptable medium-ground between phone-prohibition and phone-anarchy / impossible tightrope walking. Here is her note:

Hello Everyone,

It seems that many of you are advocating for a system in which we partner with student to support healthy cellphone use during times of learning engagement. Toward that end, I found this link to a video that explains Yondr bags and how they are utilized in schools and concert venues.

I have used Yondr bags in past jobs, and have found they maximize people’s capacity to be fully present while eliminating people’s anxiety about being separated from their phones.


I’m in! Sadly the cost might be a huge barrier since you can’t buy the bags you can only lease them. At $30 each, per student per year, it could add up to some serious dough. What would the consequences be for student who either refuse or bring two cell phones and pouch the one that they don’t use?


Heh, that seems pricey for a pouch rental.


Hmm, interesting new article on how just the mere presence of a cell phone makes you dumber. Might have surprising implications for education.


That’s some fantastic research, and confirms things I’ve noticed and felt about my own productivity. My own experience has been identical to that of the study.

I’d bet this impacts sleep as well, as I’ve slept more and better when I keep my bedroom free of devices.


And here’s a separate recent study that produced similar results. From Harvard Business Review: Having Your Smartphone Nearby Takes a Toll on Your Thinking.


Bringing this thread back from the dead once again because there is a new resource to share. Today at SXSW Edu I learned of an app called Pocket Points. This is a free app for teachers and students, where teachers can award points and incentives for students staying off their phones in class. I haven’t looked at it very closely, yet, but it’s a great idea and I’m feeling optimistic that there is an emerging trend of software intended to give users more mindful control behind their device use.


It was interesting that all three of us independent of each other stopped by this booth and were intrigued by what they are doing. This looks promising, and apparently is totally FREE.

One feature that I asked about was a whitelist feature that would not break the time when a student used their phone for one of those apps. Apparently they are working on that feature.


This seems like a pretty cool idea. I wonder what kind of source we could pull funding from for incentives? (Many of them could be free, like the 1 day extension on an assignment I saw on their website.) Other incentives like a “free snack” or money at the school store would require a small budget. I think the hurdle here would be offering an incentive that is worthwhile or at least better than the “fix” the students get from their cell phones.


There is a teacher at WEC (forgot her name at the moment) who is using this with her class. She mentioned that most of the current incentives were for locations near the U of M, so yeah, more local incentives and custom, meaningful district incentives would be helpful as well.

Is it difficult to add a personal, class-level incentive? Like get a bonus point on a quiz/test kind of thing?