PC platform includes ban on cellphones in classrooms
The newly released Progressive Conservative platform for the Ontario election includes a pledge to remove cellphones from classrooms.
According to the platform, a PC government would ban the phones in all elementary and high schools “in order to maximize learning time.”
The issue of cellphones in classrooms has been a contentious one in recent years, as phone have become ubiquitous and school leaders have increasingly adopted technological innovations.
Last year, a Toronto school enacted a ban on the use of cellphones during class time, mandating that students leave their phones in lockers. During lunch periods, students were forbidden from using their phones for text messaging, social media or the taking or viewing of photos and videos.
The Waterloo Region District School Board allows teachers to set their own rules for cellphones in their classrooms, believing they are best equipped to manage the balance between the benefits of having the phones and the distractions they can also provide.
Researchers have found that students tend to ignore school cellphone bans, and that permission to use phones under careful monitoring can improve outcomes.
The Toronto District School Board had a full ban on in-class cellphone use for several years, but rescinded it in 2011, noting that the devices can play an “important role” in classrooms.
Students surveyed by CTV News on Wednesday appeared to agree with that stance, noting that they use their phones for everything from note-taking to calculator functions.
Other students said they used their phones to communicate with their parents and to make friends with their classmates via social media.
One student, a boy in Grade 11 at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational Institute, took a different view. He said he believed phone use could increase anxiety levels in students, and believed eliminating them from the classroom could make for a more peaceful learning environment.
“I think it’s something that will aggravate and piss off a lot of students, but I think it might be a good idea,” he said.
Elsewhere in Kitchener, attendees at the True North tech conference were more likely to see both positives and negatives in the PC proposal.
“If it creates a more engaging situation for the children to learn, then I think that is appropriate,” said Mike Sfalcin.
Another True North attendee, Ian Gorman, said he hoped any decision to allow or prohibit phones in classrooms would be based on research about the effectiveness of each approach.
“There are certain times when it doesn’t make sense to have a cell phone – just like in a meeting,” he said.
With reporting by Tina Yazdani