The battle between the benefits and drawbacks of our world’s constantly advancing technology is ever-present and ever-growing. In schools, where cellphones are both tools for learning and a constant distraction, the stakes are especially high. Schools have tried everything from banning phones completely to embracing them, but the problem remains.
This year, Berkeley High School (BHS) is pioneering an original solution, which goes by the name of Yondr and comes in the form of a small cloth pouch in which students place their phones during class. The pouches lock, and they don’t open until swiped across a magnetic base.
Invented in 2014, the Yondr pouches were originally made for concerts, used by performers from Madonna to Childish Gambino. In 2017, schools across the country began using them, and this year Communication, Arts, and Sciences (CAS) and the Universal Ninth Grade (U9) have adopted Yondr.
U9 teacher Mat Glaser has witnessed the cell phone problem first-hand for years, and said that it lowers the amount of class time being used in a “productive manner.” Glaser believes Yondr lessens students’ anxiety by cutting time spent on social media and may also reduce instances of cheating and copying work off of devices. “The primary goal was to make students put away their phones, but we’re seeing a lot of other things happening,” Glaser said.
Philip Halpern, a lead teacher in CAS, was one of the first teachers to propose the idea. “We don’t think that Yondr is going to cure us of our [cell phone] addiction, but we think it’s going to help us be more focused in the classroom.”
While CAS junior Clio Galanis agreed that cell phones can be a distraction, she does not see Yondr as a solution. “In high school you get the freedom to be treated as an older person. I think part of that is being able to keep your phone on you and not being treated like an irresponsible child with a toy. It feels like a punishment,” Galanis said.
Teachers had high hopes for Yondr and many feel that it is not underperforming. “Students are getting more out of my class. When I look up students are engaged and listening. Students already have better grades because they are not distracted by technology,” said Glaser.
Even while some students could see the benefits of the system, most were resistant to locking up their phones. One concern was what to do during an emergency. CAS sophomore Maize Cline explained that she “freaked out” when she heard first about the Yondr pouches. “My immediate thought was that if there was a school shooter I wouldn’t be able to get to my phone. I wouldn’t be able to tell my family I love them before I die. Because that’s the kind of world we live in,” Cline said.
Teachers do not take these concerns lightly, but feel they have solutions. U9 teacher Courtney Anderson said “If there was an emergency the Yondr base is portable … Even if we have to evacuate, or if we’re locked in the classroom, we will be able to de-Yondr.”
The pros and cons of technology usage have become a worldwide debate, and Yondr is now a part of it.