Toronto School Board Says ‘Yes’ To Cell Phones In Classrooms: A Wise Move Or Regrettable Blunder?

by Gaurav Kheterpal on May 20, 2011

First things first, I’ve no qualms in admitting that I’m quiet old fashioned and conservative when it comes to using gadgets. And I certainly believe that allowing students to carry cellphones in classrooms is perhaps the dumbest of all the dumb ideas in the world“.

None the less, coming to the point – The Toronto District School Board yesterday lifted a ban on cellphones and other electronic devices in schools. While some believe it’s another step forward towards “21st century learning“, old timers such as myself are left worrying about the ill effects of letting technology take over our core education system.

The TDSB verdict will take effect in September. It’s understandable that this move has invoked mixed reactions from parents, students and educators. Some believe “School just got a bit better… Angry Birds all day now,” while the board says there are no reasons to worry as “The teacher still retains complete control”. Yeah, right! As for me, I’m still lost thinking about the broader implications such as distractions, cyber-bullying, cheating, privacy, porn and violence in classrooms.

To put things in perspective, the ban on cellphones was first inflicted in 2007. Back then, it was argued the use of electronic devices leads to distractions and provokes students to cheat via the Internet. If that logic is anything to go by, the distractions certainly have increased and the Internet continues to serve as an unparalleled cheat sheet for students of all ages. So, why this sudden change of heart by the TDSB? I’m at loss to explain this.

Many TDSB members argue that electronic devices, including cellphones can effectively be used for learning. Students will also be allowed to use the devices outside the classroom, as long as they don’t distract others. The revised policy implies individual teachers will have final say on permitting cellphone use in their classrooms starting in September. The Board says it continues to maintain a zero-tolerance approach towards cyber bullying and those found guilty would face “strict consequences”.

I believe that students should be allowed to use electronic devices outside the classrooms so that they can keep in touch with their parents during lunchtime and other off-breaks. However, I don’t buy the argument to allow students to carry smartphones and tablets to take notes. Do we really want our kids to stop writing? Well, it would save tons of paper for sure but should smartphones and tablets be the modern age tools to develop a kid’s fine motor skills. I don’t think so. Most kids access such devices after school hours anyway so why overburden them with technology.

Perhaps, it’s just me. There are good reasons why cellphones are banned in most “advanced” schools around the world, but perhaps these don’t apply to schools in Toronto. As the Globe puts it, “Technological and educational innovations are winning over even the staunchest critics” and I certainly belong to the latter category. What about you? Please share your opinion by leaving a comment below this post.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.comby: RSS,TwitterFacebook, or YouTube.

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