I was invited to respond to a school ban on cellphone use in a CTV two Alberta Primetime interview this week.
The interview was prompted by information about a Toronto middle school ban on cellphones in classrooms – http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/toronto-school-bans-cellphones-from-classrooms-1.3295140
I learned this type of interview is called a double-header interview. In this case, the interviews occurred at the same time but in different locations. I was interviewed at a studio in Calgary and the other participant and host were located in the Edmonton studio. This meant I was in a broadcast room in Calgary looking at a camera and could not see the host or other participants during the interview. I could only hear the audio through an earpiece.
As I prepared for the interview, I tried to think of key messages that I wanted to communicate. Here’s some of the key messages based on research that I have been involved in over many years as well as professional experiences in teaching and leading in K-12 and post-secondary environments:
- A balanced approach is needed with a focus on learning.
- Allowing students to use mobile devices and particularly their own mobile devices in schools requires intentional design by the teachers and school administrators.
- There are benefits for learners of all ages. In research I have been involved in from K-12, we have observed when students are intellectually engaged, they use technology in meaningful ways. Likewise, when students are disengaged in learning, they use technology for non-educational purposes.
- Learning can be scaffolded where learners are provided with increasing responsibility in using the tools of their day. As educators we have responsibility in designing learning opportunities that are meaningful in a digital age. We have a responsibility to coach students when they encounter difficulties in learning. We can’t expect students will automatically know how to use technologies responsibly without providing any opportunities for learning WITH technologies in school.
- When we ban cell phones, we are not promoting balance and we are not promoting learning for today’s students with today’s tools for learning.
- The fear of managing situations arising from the use of cell phones often moves a school to making decisions such as completely banning these devices instead of dealing with the structural causes or other underlying causes of the misbehaviors and helping youngsters, teachers, school leaders and parents learn from the situations. Banning cell phones avoids the issues. We can spend time patrolling to make sure the rules are followed or we can spend time designing meaning learning opportunities. Banning cell phones eliminates opportunities for learning and this includes opportunities for learning from our failures.
- We miss critical learning opportunities both when we ban cell phones and when we allow for unguided and unlimited use. Let’s aim for a balanced approach where we make learning the focus and use the tools in meaningful and ethical ways.
Here’s a link to the video: