ATA News

Teachers have something to say about phones in class


When I was kid, I used to love creating and sending notes to my friends in school. I am quite sure I spent more time creating the classic “Do you want to go to the dance with me? Circle your choice.” notes than I did on my math homework. Flash forward several years to when I started my first teaching position and witnessed my junior high students doing the exact same thing — spending a little too much time on drafting a note instead of their language arts homework. Flash forward a few more years and there would be times I would lose track of how many times a day I asked my students to put their cellphones away. I guess some things never truly change, they just morph into something new. 

Recently the Ontario government announced new rules on cellphone use in schools. The Alberta government also released a survey seeking public feedback on the use of cellphones in the classroom. In our latest pulse survey, the ATA asked the question about the use of cellphones, and 75 per cent of respondents said they thought smart phones should be turned off during classroom lessons, while 66 per cent of respondents felt that students were prioritizing their cellphones over interacting with other students. 

At our last meeting, Provincial Executive Council passed a recommendation for a resolution for consideration at this year’s Annual Representative Assembly whereby smartphones would be prohibited during instructional time except where the teacher’s professional judgment identifies a pedagogical purpose or a medical need. By having policy in place on this topic, it better frames our advocacy.

Regardless of how the cellphone debate works out and what policy is put in place, it will be ineffective unless there is support for it from all education partners. This will quickly become yet another Band-Aid approach to an issue that needs a much more fulsome approach. In the meantime, regardless of the means, kids are still going to find the most awkward way to ask someone to the dance. That will never change. ❚