Juniors and seniors in history teacher Alison Liberatore’s classes were in for quite a surprise when they walked into room A112 on Monday, March 13. Liberatore is piloting a new cell phone policy called Yondr. Students place their phones in magnetic pouches at the beginning of class and lock them up, and the phones remain in their possession inside the pouches during class. At the end of class, students magnetically unlock the pouches and retrieve their phones.
Yondr was founded by Graham Dugoni in San Francisco and was intended to be used at social gatherings, comedy shows and concerts. However, several other schools have started using it as well, including Mercy High School in Burlingame. As for Liberatore, she heard about Yondr from an article in the Wall Street Journal and was inspired to implement the policy in her classes.
“It’s not just a classroom management tool; it’s more of a ‘hey, be here,’” Liberatore said. “I’d like to see your eyes; I’d like to see you take some notes; I’d like to see you appreciate what we’re doing here.”
Liberatore has frequently noticed students taking photos of assignments during class. This can mean that students would rather simply work on the assignment later rather than thinking about it during class. She also cited the concern of students photographing teachers and each other, which could lead to invasions of privacy.
“When I think about it from the perspective of a parent, I want [my kids] to be at school,” Liberatore said. “You don’t want them to be on social media all day or looking at prom dresses instead of doing a history lesson. There have to be some places in our lives where we are not connected.”
The administration was intrigued by Yondr and approved the use of school funding for Liberatore to pilot the new policy.
“I thought it was a unique idea,” Principal Paul Belzer said. “I thought it was something that presented a possible option of how we could move forward in trying to maximize the class experience for students.”
Unsurprisingly, Liberatore’s students have reacted in many different ways to the new policy.
“I thought that it was kind of ridiculous that we have to lock up our phones because it’s an invasion of our personal belongings,” junior Daniela Lyustin said. “But now it’s fine; I feel like I pay more attention during class.”
Lyustin also said that the policy has had a positive effect on the class as a whole, which has become more attentive since its implementation. She is bothered, however, by the fact that her phone is locked up and inaccessible during class.
“It increases people’s focus and ability to pay attention, but I think it’s a really strict way of doing so,” Lyustin said.
Another issue with Yondr is that some students have been taking liberties with the policy, leaving the pouches unlocked or even putting another object of a similar size and shape inside the pouch, such as a wallet.
“I don’t think it’s really doing much because she still has to remind people to lock their phones away,” senior Rebecca Pei said. “People have found ways to get around it already. They put other things in the pouch, or they won’t lock it up properly.”
Although students understand where Liberatore is coming from, many feel that the way she is addressing the issue of phone obsession is unnecessary.
“Methods like this seem really childish,” Pei said. “I feel that since we’re in high school, you should take responsibility for your own actions. You should be able to know when you should use your phone and when you shouldn’t.”
Liberatore is piloting Yondr for the remainder of the school year, so its future remains to be seen. According to Belzer, however, English teacher Bethany Lukach has also expressed interest, and Liberatore said that the students who were most drawn to their cell phones in her classes are benefitting from the policy.
“The groups who need it most are doing really well and are good with it,” Liberatore said. “It starts to become just what you do. I did notice a difference, particularly in my junior classes. For some people who really can’t separate, when they don’t have the choice, it’s good.”