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  • Writer's pictureJim Mercer

SamTastic Weekly Tip: 4/22/24 - Leave your cell phone behind, not your students.

Today’s tip:  Leave your cell phone behind, not your students.


The first person I heard ban cell phones was Elaine Wynn.  It was 1998 and her Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas was in its first year.  I was with the other 16 Nevada school district superintendents in a meeting with Elaine, arguably the state’s leading business leader advocate for public education.  She said the phones we had were distracting.  She said that unless one of us had a significant other in a hospital she wanted the phones turned off.  This was nine years before the introduction of the iPhone.


Last week, I used my iPhone 15 to talk with a SAM principal while she returned smart phones and watches to students at dismissal.  She shared student engagement with teachers and peers increased and discipline referrals declined once they physically removed smart phones and watches.  The wave of research connecting a significant increase in student mental health issues was a driving factor, too, in her school’s move from banning smart devices to locking them up during the school day.

Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt posits that all schools should lock up devices every day"Smartphones are basically kryptonite for learning.  When children have a phone in their pocket, and most schools say you have to keep your phone in your pocket, you can't use it during class, is like saying in a drug detox clinic, 'You can keep your heroin in your pocket, just don't shoot up.' "If kids have access to a phone, they will text, they will check their social media, they will not pay attention the teacher or to each other in person."

Political leaders love this idea, but few have attached funding to legislation for equipment and staff.  One of the most popular commercial solutions, Yondr Pouches, costs $25 to $30 per student.  Students are given a pouch when entering in the morning for their devices. The pouch is locked and returned to the student.  The pouch blocks cell signals and cannot be reopened until the end of the day when a staff member unlocks the pouch with a scanner.  Yondr is showing up at theatres and medical offices.  Yondr is used in homes, too.

The idea has been around for a long time.  Waldorf, a holistic educational style intended to develop intellectual, artistic, and practical skills with a focus on imagination and creativity, restricts technology use. Screens aren't used at all through 8th grade and are scarce even in high school. The Waldorf teaching philosophy is used at more than 1,000 institutions in 91 countries, including 136 schools in the U.S.  Interestingly, The Waldorf school in Silicon Valley is very popular with tech titans.  Go figure.

Last week we featured Board President Bert Hendee in the SamTastic Weekly Tip. Today, meet Board Secretary Shawna Fagbuyi.

Shawna is a transformational educator and executive. She has been a principal for 12 years and a SAMs principal for 6 years. She is a proud graduate of Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland with a focus in Educational Leadership and Policy.


Shawna considers herself a cultural change agent, focusing on equity for students and families and inspiring communities to be lifelong learners. Among her other pursuits, she is the co-founder of Academic Chariot, an organization helping school leaders drive their family engagement. She is also the author of The Virtual Parent University Playbook, written during the pandemic to guide schools through establishing highly effective parent universities that directly impact student achievement. Ultimately, Shawna is an expert in leading large, cross-functional initiatives, systemic problem-solving, and influencing change in politically charged organizations.

Shawna joined the NSIP board of directors in 2021 as one of two SAM practitioners on the board. She is most proud of being the mother of three dynamic scholar-athletes and artists and celebrates life within their large multicultural family. She connects with the family atmosphere and professional advocacy for school leaders that is fostered on the NSIP board. As the principal practitioner, she appreciates how the SAMs process has increased her efficiency and productivity as an instructional leader.

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