Teens, Technology and Transformation

CHS Bonfire staff takes a closer look at how technology has influenced teens


A group of students sit in the mall, each one with a cell phone in hand.

Keeping Up with Technology

By: Luke Campbell

Generation Z, or iGen, is one of the most diverse generations in human history. They are diverse racially, sexually, religiously and experience wise. Gen. Z has experienced one of the most impressive technological booms in history. In their lifespans technology in the classroom has gone from overhead projectors to Apple TVs in almost every classroom.

Senior Jasper Mork said, “Well, we went from blackboards to whiteboards, then all of a sudden the latest and greatest tech was the projector, which stood the test of time. In recent years teachers have had Apple TVs installed, but in some cases the Apple TVs won’t work and the projector has proven to be a good extra.”

This year Cody High School (CHS) switched to a 1:1 Chromebook initiative. According to the 1:1 Chromebook Handbook  “We believe that integrating technology into curriculum and instruction: offers educators effective ways to reach different types of learners, empowers students’ intrinsic motivation for learning, allows for multiple ways of assessing student understanding…”

Through the years Park County School District #6 has used the 1:1 model several different times. In the last 15 years they have used Macbooks, iPads and most recently Chromebooks.

Cell phones, while not provided by the district, are another piece of technology now in the hands of nearly every student. In a survey administered to CHS teachers 64% of teachers said the current cell phone policy works well with CHS. However, one particular teacher stated “With the availability of Chromebooks for all, I would like to see that cell phones are not allowed in the classroom. If parents need to reach their students during school hours, they can call the front office and have their child paged.”

As stated earlier Gen. Z has experienced a massive technological boom in their formative years. Gen. Z, which ranges from the mid -1990s to the early 2000s, were children when the iPod was released in 2001 the oldest members of the generation were around six years old.

With the passage of time and the accelerating rate of improvement of technology, the Chromebooks have already been rendered outdated. According to Moore’s Law technology will improve exponentially, getting twice as efficient every 18 months. The Chromebooks the Seniors are using are several years old and are very outdated.

PCSD #6 has used the 1:1 model several times. Every time it goes into effect one problem has reared its head. To keep 400 students equipped with technology is to ensure that after a few months whatever technology is handed to them will be outdated.

An old transparency projector sits next to a Smart TV.

Classroom Technology at Cody High School

By: Catherine Steggall

Imagine having to use a telephone that is attached to the wall, having to copy a piece of paper by hand, not being able to communicate with everyone. Those were the times when technology was just beginning to become the miracles that are present today. Fast forward to today where every student has their own personal device and most have their piece of technology that allows them to communicate with others.

Cody High School (CHS) students are at a point in their lives where any unknown fact can be looked up or answered using the Internet. Teens are at a juncture in life when they can even see what other people are doing halfway across the world. The Internet and these devices have connected people on a global scale.

Teachers are putting the effort into trying to incorporate different forms of technology into the classroom. Today, every student has access to technology that they can use to gather the information that they need. This is a plus for students as Cody is not a big city. CHS Assistant Principal Beth Blatt believes that it’s important for students to see what’s happening in the world around them, and technology allows them to do so. “Students need to be able to see what’s happening in the world outside of Wyoming,” she said. “They need to learn about what it’s like in other places.”  

Technology provides education that will help students in the future. At CHS, seniors can enroll in any college courses offered online and on campus at Northwest Community College. Kristy Hufty, the Guidance Secretary, reports most seniors sign up for general classes such as psychology, biology, and English or math courses, but there are opportunities such as Nursing Assistant that students can take in order to get their Certified Nursing Assistant license.

Technology in the hand of students at CHS is wide-ranging from classroom to classroom but most notably includes Chromebooks on which they can learn, write, and research new information. Most teachers use the Google platform in some capacity to distribute information to students and provide feedback for written assignments using Google Documents. Some teachers, generally math and personal finance teachers, use video games as instructional tools. Students also have access to MacBook Airs and iPads to learn different skills ranging from math and Photoshop to Computer-Aided Design and Drafting.

Other pieces of technology that teachers are using within their classrooms include Apple TVs, from which they project their computer screens on to or to show instructional videos. Many writing teachers also use ELMO projectors to model writing. Many teachers use online sites to connect their students and give quizzes, including Kahoot and Quizizz, which are interactive platforms for kids to take quizzes.

Whatever the technology is, the possibilities are endless and always mean change. Associate Superintendent and Director of Technology Tim Foley said while “change is hard, the district is doing a great job with the implementation of technology.” He explained that the district has gone from computers as a main source to students now being able to go on virtual reality field trips. Technology, he added, is allowing teachers to customize their classrooms and students’ learning experiences.

“Students need to be able to see what’s happening in the world outside of Wyoming,” she said. “They need to learn about what it’s like in other places.” ”

— Assistant Principal Beth Blatt

Is CHS’s Cell Phone Policy a Good Fit?

By: Solie Jackson

“…before school begins, during passing periods, during lunch, and after school ends. In special circumstances, the building principals may authorize the use of cell phones by students.” ”

— CHS Handbook

Cody High School’s teachers are in charge of enforcing the cell phone policy, but are they doing a proper job?

CHS’s cell phone policy says the teachers are in charge of discipline. The handbook states students can have phones out “…before school begins, during passing periods, during lunch, and after school ends. In special circumstances, the building principals may authorize the use of cell phones by students.”

Out of 600 students, 134 replied to a survey conducted by CHS Bonfire. Sixty percent believed the policy fit well within CHS. Out of the 99 responses to the question “Would you like to see the policy changed and if so, how,” most students responded with no or just better enforcement. Some responses consisted of students asking for the policy to phones in classrooms if permitted by teachers. Overall students are a mixed bag.

The staff was also sent the same survey and out of the 25 responses, 64% of those believed the policy was a good fit. Most teachers responded that no changes needed to be made to the current policy. Other responses were related to the enforcement, one response even noting that the policy needs “strengthened and supported by all teachers.”

“We want our policy to be kind of a universal keep them put away. We don’t want to monitor them for kids. We don’t want to manage them in any way shape or form, but we want kids to be conscious of the fact we don’t want them in the classroom at all,” said CHS principal Jeremiah Johnston.

“We don’t want to monitor them for kids.””

— Principal Jeremiah Johnston

I see a problem in classrooms in terms of the way that the cell phone policy is being carried out. My fellow students and I check our phones constantly in classes, particularly when the teacher is lenient or non-threatening. In fact, in one previous class, the teacher did threaten to take our phones away constantly, but he lacked the follow-through, making it simple for students to still use their phones. While the policy is adequate, in order for it to be more effective, teachers must figure out how to implement actions of discipline on a consistent basis.

“…my concern is, if the teacher is engaged with kids, but that kid is checking their phone their checking out for a brief period of time with whatever is going on in the classroom. I think that’s a problem,” said Johnston.

Cell Phones: Good or Bad?

By: Madyson McBride

The high school classroom now buzzes with cell phones. Every student has one. They impact the way a student learns, how a student socializes, and how a student interacts with others. And because of this, it’s worth debating the good and bad that come along with their use.

Perhaps the biggest downside is that cell phones can be a distraction for students. “One of the cons to having a phone during class is that you can be looking at your phone while the teacher is talking and not know what you are supposed to be doing after,” Freshman Issie Foote said. Teacher Buffy Allred feels the same way, noting that social media platforms take students away from their learning inside a classroom. “It’s hard to teach a kid something when all they are doing is looking at their lap giggling about something someone just sent them on Snapchat,” she explained.

“I don’t like the vagueness of ‘at the discretion of the teacher.’ Students do well with structure and continuity. When some teachers don’t care and allow phone usage at all times while others don’t allow them at all, it creates conflict for students to remember each teacher’s rules. Plus, students then feel entitled to argue with teachers about not being able to use their phones because Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so allows them in their classroom.””

— Heather Murphy

And while cell phones definitely vie for a teen’s attention, they can also be used as learning tools. Allred, as a math teacher, knows cell phones can be used as calculators and for checking emails. Students regard the cell phones positively as a form of instant communication and resource in looking up information. “I like being able to talk to my friends when they are in another class,” Foote said. Junior Matt Sandoval appreciates being able to contact his parents when there’s an emergency.

In a survey that was sent to the staff and students of Cody High School, 57 out of 131 students say that phones are a distraction. It’s no surprise that the majority of teachers polled also find phones to be a huge diversion from learning. Those distractions, teachers reported, come in the form of games, texts, social media, and music. Many even argue that cell phones are unnecessary in the classroom because of the 1:1 Chromebook policy.

Cell phones in the classroom will likely continue to be a hot button topic, with those finding their benefits and those seeing them as a nuisance.

With Cell Phones Come Concerns

By: CHS Bonfire Staff

Walking into Cody High School before the bell rings, students can be found clustered in groups with their friends, chatting and giggling, devices in hand. During passing periods, hoards of students shuffle through the hallways, staring down at their screens while trying to get in a quick conversation. Teens simply live their lives on smartphones.

A group of students sit in the mall, each one with a cell phone in hand.

In a survey of 5,000 American teens published in the September 2017 edition of The Atlantic by Jean M. Twenge, three out of every four teens owns an iPhone. While this is certainly a defining trait of today’s teens, it wasn’t the case ten or 20 years ago.

Marti Gorman, a 20 year veteran English teacher at CHS, has seen the drastic changes in both teens and adults over the years. Social media platforms and messaging and their increasing use by teens came naturally with the smartphone and have given people a way to be in immediate contact with others.

“You can constantly be in contact with anyone,” Gorman said, “but I think the kids who feel isolated have a relentless reminder of that isolation because they aren’t getting the likes on Instagram. The attention on social media is a persistent reminder of how alone they are.”

Twenge reiterates this idea, reporting that this generation of teens is “on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades.”

Social media and the use of cell phones provide an escape from the immediate world in which a person lives, and both teens and adults are subject to this temptation. Gorman is fearful that this trend will have negative impacts. “The real stuff of the world is never here [in a cell phone]. At the end of life, you can’t go to that. It’s a real escape. If you’re just always withdrawing into a device, you’re not training your brain to deal with reality,” she explained.

Gorman isn’t the only one concerned about the use of cell phones with teens. Twenge’s article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” describes the lasting impacts, arguing, in fact, that cell phones have been detrimental to the iGen, with alarmingly high rates of both depression and teenage suicide. Twenge writes “There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.”

Twenge cites  a longitudinal study, The Monitoring the Future Survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse which asks teens about their happiness and the amount of time spent participating in leisure activities, both on screen and through in-person social interactions and exercise. The study revealed something very similar to Gorman’s worries: “Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non screen activities are more likely to be happy.”  

For now, cell phones are a part of daily life. They are a reality in an ever-changing society. And for teens, they are definitely a defining characteristic.

“It’s going to be a part of your world,” Gorman said. “I just struggle with the constant being on them. It’s a blatant message that you don’t care. But learning to use them well is a life skill we must teach.”

Family Dynamics Change with Tech

By: Harlee Zeller

“We don’t really sit down together because our schedules are all so different. Many of our conversations occur through text messages or phone calls. “”

— Harlee Zeller

A father walks into the door after a long day of work, he is greeted by the sound of electronic beeping and buttons being clicked. Everyone in the house is shut away in their bedrooms. The father sighs and sets about making his own simple dinner. Family dinner is no longer what it once was with the advent of smartphones and other devices.

Personally, my family is much like this. We don’t really sit down together because our schedules are all so different. Many of our conversations occur through text messages or phone calls. In the evening, when we’re all home, we’re not all really together, even though we’re physically in the same room. I see this with many of my friends as well.

But there are many families that still stick to the traditional dinners where they put phones away and all sit down at a table and have a conversation between one another. For example, Kat Farmer, Cody High School (CHS) Senior, who doesn’t own a smartphone, is one of these people. She explained that she and her grandparents “turn off the tv and put away phones” during dinner time and have conversations during that time.

Special Education teacher Sarah Call has two children, and when they had dinner together there was a “No phones” policy at the dinner table. When Call’s children were younger, she implemented rules that her kids had to follow when they had their phones. One of those particular rules was that they had to charged in the kitchen while her kids were sleeping.  Call slowly introduced her children to technology first through things like video games. In middle school, they were allowed to have a cell phone when they started playing sports and traveling.

Unlike Call’s family where technology is regulated, there are families whose interpersonal communication is deeply affected. In her article “How Tech Changes Families” Catherine Steiner-Adair explains that electronic devices have an impact on children and their relationships, ruining connections with “important people in their lives.” I see parents handing their phones to their young children, trying to distract and quiet them in public places, rather than having conversations and engaging with one another. Many children would rather spend hours playing video games than they would outside or conversing with other family members. Steiner-Adair argues “in the preschool years that screens may be affecting the very way their brains grow and develop.”

Teens are also impacted by the use of technology, especially in regards to social media.  Parents now have more responsibility in making sure their kids are safe. I see my peers, as well as myself, even becoming addicted to our phones and always keeping up with social media. With that comes the risk of cyberbullying.

I personally would like to see families more like Call and Farmer’s, where they sit down together, eat dinner, talk about their how they day went. I’d like to see cell phones being put away where each of us is not tempted to reach for that buzzing device.

The Frye Fraud

By: Imani Etter

With advances in new technology, the percentage of young children developing addiction to devices has soared.

“American children ages 0 to 8 use screen media for an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes each day,” Public Broadcasting System website states in their recent study on screen time.

On Jan. 21, the district held a parent night at the Cody Library to discuss the issue centering on adolescence and technology. At this meeting, the school board also called upon Aaron Stabel, a certified behavior analyst.

According to Stabel, many parents living in the Cody community believe their children are receiving too much screen time at home as well as in school designated hours.

On Sep. 17, 2018, Apple released its latest program update, IOS 12. This update allows technology to track how long individuals are on their devices as well as what apps are consuming most of their hours throughout the day.

Although the school board discussed the issues regarding youth, mobile devices and television. There have not been any known actions to help this combat this worldwide dependency.

While Cody is making an effort to detach the connection between teens and the screen, the road to recovery is going to be a long and bumpy ride. Habyts website confronted the source of these problem stating, “There is no denying it. Kids and their parents are spending more and more time on screens than ever before.”

Have newer generations raised the issue on screen time, or has this simply been children following in their parents’ footsteps?

Science educator, Mr. Power expresses his opinion on this issue stating, “ We have become dependent on it in a relatively, very short period of time. I don’t blame kids for falling into this attraction/ need. Adults are just as bad, if not worse, in some ways. The issue that I feel we need to focus on is expecting students to use the technology in an appropriate time and place. On a long term basis, I fear what young people are focusing as “important” in life. It’s difficult in a time (adolescence) where peer acceptance is so important that young people are constantly comparing themselves to others.”

The source of this compulsion maybe unknown to many, but the side effects have a commonality among generations. A student from an Arizona high school stated, “Too much screen time has become an epidemic for this generation.”

CHS freshman, Nathan Power stated, ¨I am pretty dependent on my devices. I guess what makes it so hard is all of the different ways you can waste time. On the other hand they are extremely useful for communication with other people, but there is a difference between talking to friends and having an addiction.¨

Wyoming is one of the many states that has one-to-one technology with Chromebooks.

Screen time may continue to be a controversial topic, but research has shown the relationship between children and their phones is undeniable. From depression, sleep deprivation, to communication issues, the topic needs to be addressed and solved.