*Only applies if you or your parents can afford the phone…

Smartphones are great.  Really, really great.  I’m really glad that I have one.  I use it a lot. A lot.

There’s a lot of places where smartphones are acceptable, useful even, but I am a firm believer that the classroom isn’t one of them.  Premier McGuinty suggested that allowing smartphones (and other cellphones) in class might be a good thing for Ontario’s students this week. I happen to disagree.

When I was in grade school, I found enough ways not to pay attention when I was in school, and I didn’t have texting, Twitter, Facebook, Google and everything else smartphones include tempting me all day long.  Teaching kids to not be able to put their phones away during class doesn’t do anything to help them learn about acceptable and unacceptable places for cellphone use, or help them pay attention to lessons their teachers have to offer. A quick look at any student’s phones, and you’ll see that the language of texting isn’t exactly reinforcing proper grammar and formal writing styles. If kids need access to information during the school day, maybe we need to re-evaluate the information their teachers are providing.

I can just see the advertising campaigns from the big phone companies:

Don’t worry about doing your homework, with a phone on Canada’s clearest, fastest, smartest network you’ll be able to Google the answer to your teacher’s questions in record time.  *Answers found on the internet may or may not be accurate. Only applies if you or your parents can afford the phone and a $50/month plan.

Do you want your kid to have every advantage at school? Forget books and tutors… try a smartphone on Canada’s clearest, fastest, smartest network and your kid will be able to instantly find answers to common classroom questions.  *Reading skills not included.

Above all of those concerns, what is going to happen to the kids who don’t have smartphones? Not every kid is going to have a phone: some parents won’t be able to afford it (StatsCan told us this week that 59% of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque) and some parents will think its ridiculous to give their child a smartphone.  Some parents will scrimp and save to give their child every opportunity for success – and that might mean a smartphone gets prioritized over other childhood activities such as organized sports or music lessons.

There is already enough things separating kids into ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ groups and advantages that some kids have and some kids don’t.  The more one kid has, the less the kid next door has.  Its not a big deal not to have a cellphone when there are lots of available payphones….but soon enough, almost everyone has a cellphone, and the payphone gets removed.  It may be a silly example – but its definitely something we should be thinking about.  Research has linked educational outcomes to income inequality: kids with more do better.  That inequality doesn’t go away as kids grow up necessarily either- today’s advantages help guarantee you will have more advantages tomorrow.

So, unless the Premier is planning on funding smartphones and plans for Ontario’s students, I suggest classrooms remain a phone-free zone and kids focus on learning – not how to use technology – but how to interact and learn from and with each other in a face-to-face, in-person situation.

PS: Shout outs to MPs, MPPs and other elected members who turn off their phones and pay attention in caucus, Cabinet and Question Periods.  Thanks for respecting your colleagues, engaging in democracy* and taking your job seriously.

(*No, our democracy isn’t perfect.  But if the people who work in the system and, as such, have the capacity to change it don’t even believe in it, what are the rest of us supposed to think?)

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2 thoughts on “*Only applies if you or your parents can afford the phone…

  1. I agree with everything you have said. The reality is kids already are more than well-versed in technology. All schools have computer accessibility either in the classroom or via a computer lab to locate information etc. As a teacher, I recognize that technology is a powerful tool to hook students into learning. Efforts are being made in my own school to create the equivalent of a SMARTBOARD to increase student motivation and engagement.

    The other issue is that many would not choose to use it as a ‘smartphone’ and would likely use it for texting friends and other social applications.

    Additionally, cellphones in class provide students with more opportunity to disengage. Important dialogue and stimulating discussion is missed. Quite frankly, we all spend far too much time looking at screens of all sizes. It may seem over the top but we are often missing our chance for human connection. Even making eye contact with one another seems to be going by the wayside!

  2. Nice post. I didn’t hear about this, but what an absolute joke that they’re talking about allowing cell phone use in school.

    I feel that the more technology advances, the more I want to live like the Amish! Though technology is supposed to make life easier, I have found that in a lot of ways it complicates life instead. Encouraging kids to find answers in gadgets, instead of good old fashioned books, is ridiculous!

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