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Smartphones, other devices harnessed to plug students into education
MUSD APP1 10-21-16
A Manteca Unified parent access Parent Connect. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Walk onto any Manteca Unified campus today and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a student without a cell phone.

Given the propensity of youth to seemingly text non-stop and to have their noses buried in smartphones you might think that getting some 24,000 students to comply with the rules is nearly impossible.

District Superintendent Jason Messer said issues with students abusing school policies regarding cell phones are fairly rare.

“Cellphone etiquette is the social norm on campus,” Messer said noting rules re-enforced by peer pressure means most youth adhere to school rules regarding cell phone use than guidelines imposed by parents since someone is essentially always looking over their shoulder.

At the same time whenever it makes sense  teachers have the discretion at the high school level to allow students to use cell phones for an in-class assignment to complement school-issued electronic devices. The district has even rolled out an app — Student Connection — that can be downloaded to smartphones and other devices such as tablets, computers, and laptops to make students more responsible for their academic progress.

There were 1,139 student views of the app in its first 19 days of being available. That included two weekends bookending five vacation days when students were unlikely to think of anything academically connected.

Student Connection was first deployed last year as a pilot program at Lathrop High and McParland School.

Given the success of that pilot program it was rolled out last month to seventh through 12th graders districtwide.

 It allows students to see daily assignment information, transcripts, posting of news from teachers, their grade point average, posting of grades, previous report cards, their class schedules, their attendance record of both absences and tardiness, and graduation requirements. It also provides a way to have direct communication with teachers and counselors.

“It is designed to help students to hold themselves accountable as well as teachers accountable,” Messer said.

Messer said students are encouraged not to just to review the information but make sure it is accurate. Teachers also know that students will be looking for how well they are doing in class making it a priority to keep everything current.

“Our hope in an open information environment, students will feel connected to their efforts in a comprehensive way and timely fashion,” Messer said.

It also means students can’t plead ignorance about bad attendance, assignments that are made or how well they are doing at completing requirements for graduation.

The district will still provide hard report cards. What the app means is a student can have immediate access to their academic performance and history, classroom assignments, graduation requirements, and school policies wherever they are with their smartphone or while using another electronic device.

The district currently is evaluating whether to make the Student Connect app available to fourth through sixth graders.

Parent Connect — the Blackboard app that is a kissing cousin of Student Connect — allows parents the same access to become an even more effective partner in their child’s education.

As for parents not connected for whatever reason, schools encourage them to use the school-issued devices their students have to access the app.

On campus cell

phone use policy

The Manteca Unified policy regarding cell phones and other mobile signaling or communication devices allows all kindergarten through 12th grade students to have them on campus. It does, however, restrict when and how they are used.

All students can use such devices before and after school. They must, however, be turned off during instructional time. 

There are three exceptions to that rule.

uHigh school students are allowed to use cell phones during breaks between classes and lunch.

uTeachers at their discretion may allow the use of smart phones for an in-class assignment.

uStudents that have an electronic signaling device that a licensed physician or surgeon has determined to be essential for a student’s health the use of which is limited to purposes related to the student’s health.

The district also enforces prohibitions against misusing phones including such things as bullying other students, sending inappropriate photos, or videotaping fights. Each case is dealt with in a manner that is appropriate to the severity of the offense. Schools also employ progressive discipline for repeat offenders.

That said, Messer noted there is not a significant amount of discipline-related issues with cell phones.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email