With the exception of the last two weeks of May, I had a corner of my classroom near my iPad cart that had two different surge protectors available for kids to plug in and charge their phones/tablets/eReaders. I needed one of them to power the iPad cart anyway, so I figured the other open spaces would be a good opportunity to be "cool" about my students and their devices.
My initial expectations were that I would avoid a lot of conflict from kids unplugging classroom materials (like the iPad cart or my printer) to plug in their chargers without asking. What happened were two outcomes that had me second-guessing my experiment. The students began to fight over 6 or 7 charger spots (because many were charging when they didn't really need to), and instead of losing a distraction at their seats, the phone became more distracting as they would want to go back and forth to check for new texts and notifications.
I announced to my friends in the math office last week that I was deeming the charging station a failure, and that it would not be returning next year. "Honestly, I thought you were crazy just for trying it," a friend in my PLC said. My own assessment was that perhaps I'd been naive about my students maturity to put the devices back there and leave them alone.
Today I'm rethinking.
I read this from an ongoing series from Fast Company featuring creative people (http://www.fastcompany.com/3029506/most-creative-people-2014/charmian-gooch)
"When people say something is really crazy or naive, that's when you know you're onto something," says Charmian Gooch of her latest campaign to end corporate secrecy laws.
Double-whammo. Between my colleagues and my own self-doubt, I confirmed that perhaps, the charging station could be worth it. And I'll tell you why you need one for your students, too.
1. The charging station is a chance to practice discipline, self-control, and responsibility.
It bugs me when kids tell me how grown up they are, but we DO have a responsibility to give them opportunities to practice responsibility in the grown-up world. Controlling access to outlets in your classroom against people who have a legitimate use for them just feels to me like one of those things that look crazy out of the context of my little classroom-kingdom.
2. The charging station allows kids that want to use their devices for class to use freely without fear that their battery won't make it until they can plug up at night at home.
Many kids really DO have their cellphones (at least in some part) as a safety device to allow parents to more easily keep track of them.
3. You'll save time and frustration from students asking you if they can charge their phones in the USB on your desktop, or anywhere else.
Besides the unintended consequences I mentioned, the charging station DID also do what I'd hoped. I spent much less time dealing with charging requests and anger with kids sneaking behind my back to charge their phones in outlets I was using myself.
Having to exercise classroom/behavior management (the kids going back and forth from their seat to check their phones) isn't a reason to not try (and keep) something new. So, you'll find a charging station in my classroom next year, and I look forward to the cool things my kids show me they can do on their own devices.