The risks and rewards of imposing a cellphone ban in Alberta classrooms

Click to play video: 'Should Alberta follow Ontario’s lead and ban cellphones in classrooms?' Should Alberta follow Ontario’s lead and ban cellphones in classrooms?
WATCH: A debate is brewing over the use of cellphones in Alberta classrooms. As Tracy Nagai reports, UCP leader Jason Kenney said his party is willing to take a closer look at a provincial ban – Mar 13, 2019

Ontario’s new ban on cellphones in classrooms is igniting a debate about the issue in Alberta.

On Tuesday, the Ontario government announced that starting in September 2019, students will no longer be allowed to have their cellphones during instructional time.

READ MORE: Ontario to ban cellphones from classrooms next year

Watch below: (From March 13, 2019) Charles Pascal, the former Ontario deputy minister of education, talks about some of the issues associated with the proposed cellphone ban for Ontario high schools.

Click to play video: 'Will a cellphone ban in schools work?' Will a cellphone ban in schools work?
Will a cellphone ban in schools work? – Mar 13, 2019

“I feel like kids are going to have a ton of screentime because they’re being asked to use laptops and tablets already to do their schoolwork on,” said Kristine Toews, a mother of two in Calgary. “If they didn’t need a cellphone, that would be just fine.”

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But not everyone is jumping on board with the idea just yet, including Alberta’s education minister, David Eggen.

“Minister Eggen trusts Alberta’s teachers and school boards to make their own rules regarding the use of cellphones in their classrooms,” wrote Lindsay Harvey, Eggen’s press secretary, in an email to Global News.

Those sentiments were echoed by the Calgary Board of Education.

“There is no system-wide cellphone policy, but schools are able to create their own cellphone-use policies that work for their school communities,” wrote Joanne Anderson, a spokesperson for the CBE.

“We support and safeguard students as they develop online safety skills and learn to be good digital citizens in an environment that is safe, but that gradually broadens their experience.”

READ MORE: British Columbia won’t be following suit on Ontario’s ban on cellphone use in classrooms

The Calgary Catholic School District’s policy states that personal communication devices are not to be operated by students during regularly scheduled instructional time unless such use is approved by the classroom teacher to facilitate learning activities.

At a news conference on Wednesday, UCP Leader Jason Kenney said a cellphone ban could be something his party takes a closer look at.

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“We haven’t made a decision to support that, but teachers need support to ensure that there is a focused learning environment and that kids are focused in the classroom and not constantly distracted,” Kenney said.

Philip McRae with  the Alberta Teachers’ Association said that research is ongoing but a balance needs to be found.

“Let’s say the people in a community don’t have access to technology,” he said, “then the teachers can help them prepare for a future that will be defined by technology. That’s why we don’t want to just say ban it.”

McRae also said that parents should focus on limiting their child’s screentime at home.

“Two areas where we’re looking for balance is screentime at night and technology around the dinner table — making sure that doesn’t interrupt relationship-building.”


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