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Opinion From the comments: Is a cellphone ban in the classroom realistic? Readers (including teachers) debate

Today's comments were selected from Gary Mason's well-read column arguing the time has come to ban cellphones in the classroom. More than one of the contributions come from educators, bringing valuable perspective to the discussion.

A student uses his mobile phone in class.

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This ignores the big part of the problem. Parents insist on being able to reach their kids. They will never agree to a ban. - Interested Party

As someone who helped develop a clear and cooperatively developed smartphone policy in a secondary school, I have worked closely with people who hated them, loved them and also those who thought long and hard about how to incorporate them into real learning.

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These efforts were thrown away with our board’s “BYOD” policy, borrowed from industry, and embraced by administrators who were terrified of being behind the technological curve. This has left us with the situation outlined in Gary Mason’s article. One of the great disservices for which our schools are responsible is that students who are most vulnerable to the corrosive effects of inattention are precisely the ones whose cellphone use in the classroom is often chronic and tolerated because it means they cause fewer immediate behaviour problems. And we can’t ignore the fact that teachers themselves often have trouble tearing themselves away from their various social networking sites. - EBlair84

"A child’s self-control, including his or her ability to concentrate, was the strongest predictor of future success." I, for one, believe that. There are situations where all of us, not just school-children, need to put our devices away for multiple reasons. Students have the rest of their day to fiddle with their phones, and we know they will, often to the detriment of their health (vision, obesity, etc). The benefits of using cell phones in class (and there are some) are greatly outweighed by the down-side.

Devices should not only be banned from classrooms; they should be banned from playgrounds as well. Some kids are so addicted to their devices that they would much prefer to text than they would to run around, get some exercise and engage in real face-to-face social interaction.

Cell phones were not allowed in my special-ed classroom: students who brought them (usually as diversions on the bus) placed them in my desk drawer and retrieved them at bus time. I felt it was important to practice what I preached so I left my phone in the car. I believe that more teachers should do so: a teacher who's doing yard duty can miss a great deal if they are fiddling with their phone. - Rick Munroe

In response to Rick Munroe:

Actually as I'm reading through these comments, I realize that actually 'policing' the use of cellphones would indeed be an onerous task. If there were a way (and I can't believe there isn't a way if one looks for it) to scramble the signal in the school and its general area, that would take care of the problem handily. I bet this can be done, if it hasn't been already, and would be worth looking into. - Gizella

In response to Gizella:

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"Actually 'policing' the use of cellphones would indeed be an onerous task."

Most non-teachers have no idea how onerous it is. Or rather, used to be... many schools have given up the battle. First my elementary school said phones were not to be brought to school. Then they were to stay in the backpacks (until other kids stole them). Then they were to be out of sight in class and on the yard and never in the change rooms. Then they were OK at recess/free time but not during instructional time.

I retired five years ago and can only imagine what the current situations are like (they will vary from school to school, teacher to teacher). Compliance would be much easier to obtain if the ban were Board-wide, ideally province-wide. - Rick Munroe

Why is it not as simple as this? No unauthorized cellphones in class (may be authorized on medical grounds or if the phones are intended to be used for a particular learning project).

  • First offence: phone confiscated until a parent comes to the school and gives an undertaking that the child will abide by the policy.
  • Second offence: phone confiscated for the longer of a week or until a parent comes to the school to explain why their undertaking was breached.
  • Third offence: child expelled from class. - Drew in BC

In response to Drew in BC:

All of this takes time and the administration doesn't want to hear about it so teachers must accept cell phones as there are no repercussions. Teachers cannot remove phones from students (we were told this is theft by our principal and that if the student claimed it was lost or damaged, we would be responsible). - sherie163

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