Ontario Premier Says Cellphones In Class Could Be Useful

from the smart-comments-from-politicians? dept

With schools, cell phones and a politician in the same headline, you'd think the story would be about another attempt to ban technology, but in Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty is telling schools to be open to uses for cellphones in the classroom.

McGuinty, who won't even let his ministers keep the devices during cabinet meetings, said he understands they can be a major distraction, but there is a "right way" to use them in class.

"Telephones and BlackBerrys and the like are conduits for information today, and one of the things we want to do is to be well-informed," he said. "And it's something that we should be looking at in our schools.

The issue came up in light of the Toronto District School Board rethinking its blanket ban, and "exploring ways to make [mobile devices] more acceptable."

Political opponents are already mocking McGuinty, and his government does have a really mixed track record on technology... but the comments here are actually quite reasonable. There's room between the "discipline theater" approach of a total ban and the teacher's nightmare scenario of a total free-for-all. A good acceptable use policy would attempt to reduce distractions while not precluding ways in which mobile technology can be helpful in the classroom.

I attended a strict private high school in Toronto from 2001-2005, and we had a blanket ban on electronic devices... but teachers were smart enough to know when it made sense to ignore the ban. I used my PDA to take notes and manage homework in every class, and another student in my year often used a tablet computer. The ban was eventually lifted after I graduated, acknowledging the fact that more and more students were using laptops and mobile devices in ways that helped them learn, while I'm sure they still have a no nonsense policy for students goofing off or distracting others. Rules are needed to minimize bad uses, but that shouldn't prevent people from exploring good uses.

So, good for McGuinty for recognizing that we're better off exploring applications for mobile technology in the classroom than simply trying to ban it.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Moo², Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 1:30am

    This is a far better solution that to band all technology. we use it in our daily lives but at school we are expected to ignore that and do it the old way. I once got a lower grade in college because i was "hiding behind my laptop" while I was taking notes and looking up course related information.

    thank god this is changing.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 4:20am

    Answering phones can be detrimental to the health of young people.

    Office stress
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buiq_mMjhQY

    There are to many crazy people on the world.

     

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  3.  
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    Mark B (profile), Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 4:41am

    This is a surprisingly forward thinking decision, considering McGuinty is pretty much an idiot. But I have to give him kudos on this one.

     

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  4.  
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    Jimr (profile), Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 7:26am

    There is zero NEED for cell phones in school class rooms.

    Back in my day if your parent wanted to get a hold of you they call the office and they came and got you.

    There is zero NEED for cell phones in school class rooms. You are there to pay attention to the teacher; not texting or making phone calls. After all passing notes in classes is a no-no too.

    Real computers can server a purpose. A PDA maybe but something like the iPhone would be laughable - Taking NOTES on an iPhone - ha ha ha.

    The problem is a good acceptable policy the PARENTS will 100% accept. A teacher friend of mine has a simple policy - all cells phones ringers off and the top right corner of the desk (visible at all times). One Parent attempted to contact their child 3 times with no luck so they called the police as they where worried their little Johnny had a accident at school. So much for the policy - now kids hide there cell phones, ringers on, texting there school mates two desk over. Not at all distracting for the teacher or OTHER students when you have at least 10 phones ring every hour.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 8:08am

    anything and everything to further education....

    having recently graduated from college I see what most young adults do with their computer/cell phone/laptop + wireless/3G free reign.

    this is classic Lord of the Flys ... on would hope kids/young adults do the right thing but more likely they won't

     

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  6.  
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    Ron Rezendes (profile), Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 10:36am

    Re: There is zero NEED for cell phones in school class rooms.

    Did you read the article - with an open mind? I doubt it or this would NOT have appeared in your comment:

    "There is zero NEED for cell phones in school class rooms. You are there to pay attention to the teacher; not texting or making phone calls. After all passing notes in classes is a no-no too."

    Read the quoted passage below all the way through - PLEASE!!

    "I used my PDA to take notes and manage homework in every class, and another student in my year often used a tablet computer. The ban was eventually lifted after I graduated, acknowledging the fact that more and more students were using laptops and mobile devices in ways that helped them learn, while I'm sure they still have a no nonsense policy for students goofing off or distracting others. Rules are needed to minimize bad uses, but that shouldn't prevent people from exploring good uses."

    No where is anyone claiming that phone calls and text messages should be allowed or condoned. However they do want to point out that today's smart phones CAN help the learning process.

    This is a pretty ridiculous statement as well:
    "Taking NOTES on an iPhone - ha ha ha."

    Actually, you can record the whole lecture/lesson and without writing a word, so you can pay MORE attention to what is being said AND participate in any discussion. You'll have the entire class (with any questions, answers, and dialogue including verbal emphasis and inflections) available to you indefinitely!! There simply is no way a human can write any better or more complete notes.

    Take the blinders off and let technology help you rather than wrestling with it because it was never done that way before!

     

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  7.  
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    Blaise Alleyne (profile), Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 10:40am

    Re: There is zero NEED for cell phones in school class rooms.

    "There is zero NEED for cell phones in school class rooms. You are there to pay attention to the teacher; not texting or making phone calls. After all passing notes in classes is a no-no too."


    What Ron said. Plus, this really has less to do with "cell phones" and more to do with mobile, handheld computers (even though McGuinty still calls them cell phones).

     

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  8.  
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    Blaise Alleyne (profile), Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 10:41am

    Re:

    A significant part of my thinking that didn't make it into the post: "I can't believe I'm defending Dalton McGuinty..."

     

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  9.  
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    Adam G (profile), Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 12:50pm

    Although I think class rooms can function without cellphones. One must recognition and embrace technology as it comes because it could potentially accelerate education in methods we can not fully see. As some of the education and learning topics at ted have discussed previously. I would like to reiterate some points. When kids are interested in something, learning happens at an exponentially increased rate. Let me run through a few of my personal thoughts and uses that cell phones could be used for. Although some schools/colleges have anonymous multiple choice answer things for large class room public debates each student is given a device where they can press A, B, C, or D on it and when the teacher asks a question, they can take short polls and find out quick answers on topics. These devices are expensive, limited, and cumbersone, and sometimes lost/forgotten. If all the kids in a class had cellphones they could text their teachers(with their lightning fast typing skills) A, B, C, or D for general questions. The students wouldn't know what others neccesarily always said and the teacher could more quickly gauge if all the students understand it, instead of the few outgoing loud ones. For example, Although VERY simple question, what is 24/6? A) 3, B)4, C)5, D)6 In old class room styles, 1 or 2 students may say what the answer is, but now the teacher could see on their computer/display that 85% of kids got it right. Take this a step further, and have free response answers What do you guys think of ________? Kids could respond, teacher could see on their private computer the answers and choose to show answers(on projector but names of student anonymous) The reason the teacher chooses is to prevent random name calling or inappropriate things from showing up on the screen. A lot of students I think would like to answer but are too shy to speak out, or there is limited time to hear from all students but a teacher could quickly pick out 2-3 better ones from a read list, instead of a listened list. Same concept applies to questions in class, a lot of students may feel insecure about asking a question. Since cellphones would be permitted, youd have to establish some rules like (if your phone rings or makes noise you can get in trouble, or lose points, sent to principal, etc...) It could incorporate more student participation. By requiring students to respond to at least 75% of questions in a semester. Obviously the class won't have a ton of these every class, but the few that occur. The major downside to this are Does this reinforce an ever growing less face to face social society by allowing students to rely and depend on texts/phones more? Instead of fixing the root problems? What about students who don't have cell phones? texting?

     

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    Adam G (profile), Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 12:51pm

    I cant find the edit button and I swear I spaced that stuff out. I don't know why its a giant wall of text :(

     

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  11.  
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    Blaise Alleyne (profile), Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 1:04pm

    Re:

    "I cant find the edit button and I swear I spaced that stuff out. I don't know why its a giant wall of text :("

    Your comment might have been set to HTML instead of Plain Text? Plain Text automatically spaces lines when you do, with HTML you have to make the spacing explicit in HTML.

    Good points though.

     

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  12.  
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    Chuck, Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 1:49pm

    Re: There is zero NEED for cell phones in school class rooms.

    Well...there's just one small problem with your point, sir.

    Cell phones aren't phones any more. Sure, you can get a RAZR and you won't be able to do anything useful in class (well, except it does have a Calculator, but whatever.) However, more and more, everything has a cellular radio these days. The iPad has a cellular radio and is excellent for taking notes, but can't make phone calls at all. (Ok, VOIP, but not a phone call just the same.)

    That said, I can think of a single, incredibly simple solution: Install Wifi and a call phone jammer. Problem solved.

    With this (and a decent content filter on the wifi - these are kids, after all) mobile devices will be unable to take a phone call or receive a text message, however data applications, such as a web browser or email, will continue to function normally. If a phone is unable to do anything besides take a phone call or text message, it'll be disabled whether the student likes it or not. If, however, it has any sort of advanced functionality that could be useful in a classroom (Wikipedia CAN BE an invaluable tool, folks!) then it can do it over the Wifi, which will probably be faster anyway. Add obvious filters for porn and instant messaging and you quickly develop a network that offers incalculable benefits with minimal distraction in a classroom.

    That said, I would like to caution anyone who seriously tries this - monitor the filter stringently. If I were avoiding a school district on this, my #1 most important piece of advice would be to have the IT managers themselves go around for at least a month and sit in during classes at random with a packet sniffer running on the local router. Figure out what else you need to block, and often more importantly, figure out what you need to unblock. Youtube is often a massive time-waster, but it also has not hundreds or thousands, but millions of free educational videos on everything from Algebra to Zoology, so blocking it outright will be detrimental to the system. Be granular, and craft your filter by hand to ensure that a blanket rule neither distracts nor restricts the students when it shouldn't.

    Just the same, incorporating technology into the classroom is a great idea, and with school budgets being what they are, banning students personal - and often vastly superior - technology cannot help anyone, especially the students themselves.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2010 @ 7:26am

    block websites? the last time we tried to block sites and services as an IT department we got swamped with blocking requests and unblocking requests.

    it ate up so much time that we gave up and went back to "allow all" and told teachers to check what kids are doing.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2010 @ 11:04am

    Re:

    phones should still be on vibrate and should leave class if its something that cant be said over txt

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2010 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: There is zero NEED for cell phones in school class rooms.

    " decent content filter on the wifi" id bet of workaround really quick and I HATE FILTERS the random packet sniffer is ok
    "call phone jammer"
    thats a bad idea on so many lvls, people need cell phones, when they have to leave school ground to get a ride home from school, medical emeracys, staying social ect.

     

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  16.  
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    sally, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:10pm

    heyyyyyyy

    oya cool lad man ily my gf

     

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