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The Westlake OverYondr Teacher Pilot Mission is seeking business sponsorships to assist in offering students the ability to disconnect when they enter classroom doors and experience a phone-free environment.

The minds behind the initiative at Westlake High School in Fulton County, Georgia, hope these environments will have a direct impact on students’ productivity, achievement and self-confidence, as well as allow them the opportunity to create a more positive school culture in the future. Teachers in the Atlanta community are brainstorming creative ways to help children learn and retain new skills. Instructors strategize and implement plans that are suited to the individual needs of students, making an effort to know them with the mindset that positive relationships should be the foundation of learning communities. In recent years, cellphones have changed how those communities operate. Student cellphone addiction is creating new, unique challenges for young minds in classrooms and communities.

Instructors and administrators have witnessed first-hand how students suffer from the constant connectivity to their friends and followers: a flippant insult on Snapchat leads to a fight in the cafeteria, or an embarrassing video is spread through Airdrop to humiliate an unsuspecting child, or a student simply becomes distracted because they feel confident in multitasking while they scroll. Social anxiety, depression, lack of self-confidence and low academic achievement have all been exacerbated by the growing national concern of cellphone addiction.

To address this issue, Westlake is partnering with Yondr, a company that creates cellphone pouches for those wishing to experience a phone-free environment. Together, the initiative is launching a pilot program among 12 classroom teachers for the 2018-19 school year. The students will be given a pouch in which they secure their phones as they enter the classroom. The kids are able to keep their phones in their possession, which will reduce the risk of separation anxiety, but they are unable to use them until the pouch is opened by a Yondr magnet station. The Westlake OverYondr Teacher Pilot program will incorporate quantitative and qualitative research in each pilot classroom to gain data and statistics covering a wide range of metrics.

Some of these metrics include behavioral analysis (academic and social), Likert scales measuring social anxiety, reliance on cellphones (academic and social), and classroom skills such as information retention, academic behavior and study habits. These surveys will be conducted at the beginning, middle and end of each semester, to be repeated at the start of the second semester for a total of six surveys per class period. Westlake is not the first school that has looked to Yondr to help free students from their cellphone addiction. At City on the Hill Circuit Street charter school in Boston, Massachusetts, the school has adopted Yondr as a school-wide community initiative. Principal DeOtis Williams Jr., in an NPR article on the school’s Yondr experience, spoke to the long-term ramifications of battling cellphone addiction in local schools: “Like my mom always used to tell me, ‘Kids know what they want but not what they need.’ We know what the students need,” he says. “[They] need to be present in the moment and to make healthy choices.”

At Westlake, the program’s goal is to create a learning community that nurtures students’ productivity, encouraging students to develop more positive and constructive interpersonal relationships. The Yondr materials required for each teacher amount to a total of $664/classroom. The Westlake initiative hopes to see enough pouches to aid 12 classrooms, and are seeking local businesses to pledge sponsorships. Contributing companies will be publicized as valued contributors to the future of local schools and communities. By joining in this effort, those who help fund the project will be encouraging students to make connections beyond their current spheres of influence, and supporting children’s growth as they read, think, learn and share their knowledge with others.

For more information and to learn how businesses can support the Westlake OverYondr Teacher Pilot Mission, contact Brittney Lee at leetb@fultonschools.org (352-682-6118) or Megan Orfield at orfieldml@fultonschools.org (678-882-2206) About Westlake OverYondr Teacher Pilot Program This idea began in January 2017 after reading an NPR article on the use of Yondr in education. Teachers at Westlake spent the next five months contacting Yondr, our administrative team, and working out the details of the program to present it to our school’s leadership team. We received approval of the program but not the necessary funds, which is why we are reaching out to our community now. For more information on Yondr, visit http://www.overyondr.com. For the NPR article that sparked our interest, please visit this link: https://www.npr.org/2018/01/11/577101803/a-schools-way-to-fight-phones-in-class-lock-em-up

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