Expert says cell phone bans at schools can be appropriate
Like it or not, cell phones are now a fixture in kids lives and Canadian schools and that sees some using them inappropriately in the classroom where distractions should be kept to a minimum.
“As a society we’re struggling with it and this is just one of the places where we see that more clearly,” says Vancouver Island University professor and Educational Technologist Julia Hengstler.
School boards across the country are tackling the problem in various ways.
Victoria’s Central Middle School is opting for a complete cell phone ban beginning in September.
“We found over a period of a year and a half growing difficulty with cell phones in school and the educational benefit was shrinking,” said Principal Topher MacIntosh.
In a time of fast changing technology it’s a move one Vancouver Island University professor says can be justified.
“That also allows schools to kind of regroup and get their feet under them and to determine what are the behaviours we’re looking for,” says Hengstler.
But bans often don’t work.
A survey of 4000 students found that 88% report classroom or school-wide cell phone bans but a majority admit they used their phones anyway.
So some experts believe the key is to incorporate those phones into the classroom.
With their ability to google information, access calculators to mapping applications they can be used as a learning tool.
“But that requires that the students understand what the expectations are and what the consequences are when they don’t meet them,” says Hengstler. “That the teacher is comfortable in managing those and has been provided the professional development they need to be able to navigate that as well.”
And, if done right, it would better prepare students for the future.
“We want to be able to bring technology into the classroom and slowly get students ready to be able to manage devices on their own as adults because they’re going to go into the workplace they’re going to leave our schools and are they ready?”
The classroom may not be the only place where kids should be taught to use their phones responsibly but schools do have a role to play. Figuring out that role continues to be the challenge.