Ford government planning to ban cellphones from Ontario classrooms

By Jessie Weisner

"I feel that our cell phones can be used as a tool if used in the right way", says Brooke Demers, a student at St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School.

"Ontario's students need to be able to focus on their learning - not their cellphones", Education Minister Lisa Thompson said in a statement released early Tuesday. During this consultation we heard that 97 per cent of respondents support some form of a ban on cellphones.

That's in response to news out of Ontario indicating cellphones will be banned in classrooms in that province.

Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said it doesn't sound like the policy will differ from what is already happening in schools.

Students would be allowed to bring their phones into the classroom, the government said, but usage would be reserved for educational and emergency situations.

On Tuesday, the Ontario government announced it would be ban cellphones during instructional time, starting in September.

"The notion that teachers are simply allowing inappropriate cellphone use at the moment is incorrect", he said.

For example, in Canada's capital, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has an Appropriate Use of Technology policy.

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And the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) even used to have a ban on cellphones, but lifted the ban in 2011 after student trustees argued that technology had become a pervasive part of student life, CBC reports.

However, it will still be up to individual school boards and schools to determine how to enforce the ban.

The ban will not apply when teachers want to use cellphones for their lesson, for medical reasons, and students with special needs.

The ban comes on the heels of a public consultation conducted past year.

"I think that this (announcement) has everything to do with a government that's trying to distract from the really serious and considerable concerns of families and education workers", she said.

The move was praised by many, but some say the ban is antiquated and a missed opportunity to teach children about responsible technology use.

Among the feedback sent to the ministry of education, educators complained that phones were not only a distraction but that students were also using them to cheat and share unflattering photographs of teachers on social media.

The ban is set to begin in the upcoming school year.

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