Mt. Scott Learning Center’s way to fight phones in class:
lock them up (but don’t take them away from students)
Enter the Yondr pouch, which has provided one small, local Portland high school with a successful way to fight phones in class: lock them up – but don’t really take them away from students.
In the fall of 2021, Mt. Scott Learning Center, a contracted options high school for Portland Public Schools, became the first high school serving public school students in Oregon to introduce the cell phone-free Yondr program. The program requires students to place their cell phone in a Yondr pouch upon arrival at school each morning. The pouch (see attached photo) then locks the phone in place. Students are allowed to keep possession of their phone in the locked pouch throughout the school day. At the end of the school day, students can unlock their phones from circular, magnetic unlocking bases near the school’s main exit (see attached photo).
“The Yondr system is a fairly simple process, but we did a lot of research first, knowing that piloting it would require sound rationale, buy-in from stakeholders, and the will to implement it” said Aaron Balogh, Director of Student Life at Mt. Scott.
After consulting with staff, students, and families, it was decided that Mt. Scott Learning Center would commit to a cell phone-free school day and adopt the use of Yondr pouches.
“We were, let’s say, cautiously optimistic when we launched Yondr in 2021,” said Balogh. “And not all of our staff were confident it was going to work.”
Amanda Morris, a veteran math teacher at the school, was admittedly one of the biggest skeptics of the new cell phone-free program. “I was vehemently opposed to using the pouches, but I was so wrong and I am glad I was wrong,” said Morris. “Yondr has worked great, it totally changed the stress levels in my classroom, and students are more engaged than ever.”
“Yondr took the phone battle out of the classroom,” said Emily Class, a social studies teacher at Mt. Scott. “Students became more engaged in course content and teachers didn’t have to constantly monitor students using phones in classes. Plus, school ‘drama’ couldn’t spread like wildfire because students weren’t on social media during the school day.”
Adds Class: “Yondr brought students together. It connected previous socially isolated students with peers who may have had trouble making friends. Students couldn’t hide behind their phones at lunch anymore!”
Despite the anticipated initial resistance to Yondr (yes, it’s a verb) their phones, most Mt. Scott students have readily accepted the cell phone-free policy, and many have become vocal proponents.
“Honestly, I really appreciate it,” said Max, a junior at Mt. Scott. “My phone was such a distraction, and I really want to get good grades.”
Skyler, a sophomore at Mt. Scott, agrees saying “Without the distraction of my phone I’m able to socialize more and generate meaningful conversations with other students.”
Donelda Weiss, whose son attends Mt. Scott, says: “The ‘phone rule’ is a big reason why my son is now more social and engaged in school. Mt. Scott is the first school where he feels safe and doesn’t skip. This school has brought hope and life back into my son’s life.”
After two full years of piloting Yondr, school leaders at Mt. Scott agree there is no turning back.
“The environment at our school has profoundly changed for the better with staff and students reporting a tremendous increase in both academic and social engagement,” said Dara Christy, Mt. Scott’s Director of Academics. “Students are more present, less distracted, and there has even been a reduction in interpersonal conflicts. Classrooms are lively with engaged students and the lunchroom is buzzing with the hum of students laughing and talking. Yondr is directly contributing to the positive academic and social climate of our school community.”