Cellphones in the Classroom

With the election of Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative party in Ontario last week, questions now arise as to how this group will live into the promises that were made.  Educators  are among those who are particularly anxious about the implications given that promises included the repealing of the updated sexual-health curriculum, scrapping of “discovery” math and “fixing” standardised testing.  He also promised to ban cellphones in all primary and secondary classrooms to “maximize learning time”.

Telephones vs. Cellphones

Do you remember those days when the privacy of a telephone conversation was limited to the length of the chord?  Some of us have even heard of that time when a phone call required an operator and/or involved a party line.  Today, cellphones are used for far more than telephone calls.  Cellphones take pictures, play video and music, provide connectivity to the Internet, access to social media, apps for a large variety of functions and more.  They can act as a credit card, a ticket to a movie, and a lifeline to family and friends.  For today’s young people, cellphones are a vital tool for life.

Cellphones in the classroom

Mention the promise to ban cellphones in the classroom in my house and the response is incredulity.  My partner is an elementary school teacher who emphatically states that cellphones are the great equalizer for those schools, students and classrooms who do not have ready access to other forms of technology.  My teenager admonishes the suggestion by emphasising how often cellphones are used in classrooms for vital research and/or for participation in questionnaires (through an app called ‘Kahoot’ which enables anonymous participation and thus facilitates conversation).

In fact, cellphones have become so integral to the learning process that school boards have chosen to simply limit access to programs and activities that might distract students including Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, and Snapchat.  Videos that are deemed inappropriate are also blocked.  Ultimately this creates space for students to maximize their resources for learning with a single hand-held device.  If these were to be banned in classrooms, what would be offered to replace these?

Yes they can be a distraction

It would be naïve to suggest that cellphones are never a distraction.  Of course, realistically, students found ways to be distracted in class long before cellphones.  We used pencils and paper to write notes to each other.  These were important tools for learning and still are today.  No one would suggest taking these away.

What do you think?

Do your children have cellphones?  How are these used?  To what extent are you aware of the possibilities cellphones create in regards to learning?  Would you support a ban on cellphones in all elementary and secondary classrooms?  Why or why not?

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