Banning Cellphones in Schools: Taking the Easy Way Out

August 27, 2018


We love the fact that we were able to collaborate with a current BC teacher and parent, Sandra McAulay, on the writing of this blog post. Thank you, Sandra, for your wisdom and support.

Very recently, two articles peaked our interest specific to a trend that we are seeing where some schools are choosing to ban the use of personal cellphones and laptops in the classroom.

Here in Canada, the Ontario provincial government is also considering passing provincial legislation that will also ban cellphones in the classroom:

It’s easy for today’s parent or teacher to say, “We didn’t use this technology when I was in school and I turned out ok, so why do we need to do it now?” Change is going to happen and therefore we need to ensure that our kids are keeping current with this change in a “managed” way, or they will be left behind when it comes to future educational and career opportunities. It is our job as both parents and educators to teach our children how to use their devices responsibly. Reading, writing, and arithmetic have been the primary benchmarks in education, BUT digital literacy is now a required skill that schools are responsible for teaching. The challenge, however, is that some schools have not embraced a balanced approach to this digital literacy through reasonable policy, procedure, training, and consequences of actions. We spoke to these steps in this article .

Schools and educators are also challenged with the task of keeping up with ever-changing technology. Most schools have tech initiatives; however, these initiatives often lose momentum or get lost in the shuffle of the busy day-to-day realities of the school. In most cases, the struggle to implement tech into the classroom is not the fault of the school or teacher. We have all been digitally learning through trial, error, experience and research. As devices, apps, and the ‘cyber-world’ evolve, it makes it difficult for our schools to always keep up with progressive and appropriate policies, thus they can tend to default to just not allowing cell phones in the building.

It is exciting to see that, in education, we have moved from the online “wild west” to a more “homestead” approach to digital learning. From our combined experience across BC, Canada, and the US, we’ve found that the schools that have had the most success with integrating technology into the classroom have these five ingredients in common:

  • Policy on the use of tech in the school/classroom which then became a part of the school’s culture.
  • Policy development and implementation had student involvement (wasn’t adult-centric) so that there was buy-in by the students.
  • Policy implemented was fully supported by the school district and admin team.
  • Educators and students have been appropriately educated on the policy and the appropriate use of tech in the classroom.
  • Have reasonable consequence to violations of policy by students and staff, which in some cases involved a restorative justice approach.
  • All have had 100% buy -n from the parents.

Does the above-noted strategy take time and effort to implement? Absolutely. However, with time and effort comes rewards. The question is, are you the type of school or educator that is willing to put in this time and effort? Or is just banning these devices an easier way out? Our opinion is that banning has no teaching/learning value and that it only perpetuates unhealthy covert behaviour in our teens.

Darren Laur and Sandra McAulay

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