The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

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New Handbook Policies stand in the way of technology

“Phones and watches away everyone, it is time for class.” The last time I heard that phrase I was in sixth grade, but soon I’ll be hearing it again as the new Cell Phone and Smartwatch policy takes effect in the Upper School. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. 

There hasn’t been a day I have gone without an Apple Watch on my wrist, and I don’t plan on taking it off anytime soon. The new policy states that cellphones and smartwatches must remain in your backpack or locker during your classes. Sure, I get the appeal, how do we prevent kids from getting distracted during class? We remove the most obvious distraction, their phone. Watches on the other hand are a bit more of a reach. 

I am not scrolling through X on my watch. I’m checking the time. Even with phones, the cons of banning phones simply outweigh the benefits. For the past 30 years cellphones have evolved into what they are today. Checking your email, homework, or schedule are all things that a cell phone can accomplish in a fraction of the time than getting a laptop out. 

Convenience is one thing, but more importantly there’s safety. Just last year we were forced to evacuate the building, and having a phone made it easier to connect with my parents and see what was going on. There were others that day who had left their phones in their bags, as this policy would require, and they had a harder time making contact with their family. 

Communication is another big factor in why cellphones are important to have. The new policy wants you to send all communication through the Upper School office during the day, but when my parents want to ask me a question, I don’t think they should need to page me. With around 400 students, the school is going to need a call center. 

I believe smartwatches are a lot less controversial. What are you going to do with a smartwatch? Maybe track your exercise or you know check the time. I think that we should be allowed to do these simple things. 

Instead of embracing new technology, Parker is trying to fight against it about 20 years too late. Cell phones and smartwatches have already worked their way into society and our community. 

Something that Parker may have gotten ahead of however  is generative AI. It hasn’t even been a year since Chat-GPT rolled out in November, and almost everyone has tried it. Of course generative AI is so powerful that it does need restrictions. The added policy about generative AI specifically states that it is not academically honest to represent the work of AI as your own, which seems kind of obvious, but I suppose it is better to have it stated. The number of assignments completed last school year by AI is probably quite high, but then comes the question of how we prove it. 

There are services such as GPT-Zero that use AI to predict whether something has or hasn’t been written by a human. But the key word is predict. It is not definitive. So how can we punish someone for using AI on an assignment when we could just be punishing them for improving their writing skills? I myself have been accused of using an AI to write an essay when, in fact, I wrote it myself. 

The question is, when is it ok to use AI? And when should we encourage it? AI can be a very helpful research tool, curating responses to very specific questions. It can also act as a teacher to help individual students learn subject matter in a personalized way, asking as many questions as they need. Like cellphones, instead of out-right banning AI, we need to find the line between helping and cheating. 

I’m not going to walk up to the fourth floor or dig through my backpack every passing period just to find my phone, so I can check my next class on Skilldule. I’m not going to take off and put on my watch either. I understand the thought process of avoiding phones in pockets because notifications might distract you, but if we enforce the policy of not having phones out, you wouldn’t be able to check them. You might be able to see a text from an Apple Watch, but unless you’re going to use that draw to type feature, you aren’t going to respond. 

AI is the future, whether we accept it or not, so we need to figure out ways to incorporate it into the progressive learning process. We must find the proper limits to these technologies and I don’t believe the new policies have reached those. I’m not saying that these policies shouldn’t exist. I’m saying they aren’t realistic. Students shouldn’t be on their phone during class, but banning phones from being accessible is not going to prevent people who would have their phones out anyway. It just hinders the practical use of phones.

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