‘We actually embrace the use of cellphones where appropriate’: DC VP

Cellphones can be used as a teaching device, but if used excessively they can lead to addiction, officials say. Photo credit: Rachelle Baird

The Ministry of Education says no cellphone use in elementary and secondary school classrooms, but the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has no plans to follow suit.

Starting in the fall, the provincial government has banned cellphone use, with the exception of medical issues, students with special needs or if used as part of the lesson.

How the ban will be enforced is up to the individual school boards.

But don’t expect Durham College (DC) or other post-secondary institutions to follow suit.

Marianne Marando, DC’s associate vice-president of academics, says “I don’t expect Durham College should put a ban in place, our students are at a different age group than the students the government is talking about.”

Marando feels cellphone use still needs to be used properly at the college level, noting “we wouldn’t want a student to use a cellphone in class to surf the net or talk to their boyfriend or girlfriend. We actually embrace the use of cellphones where appropriate – to support good teaching and learning, some teachers use cellphones for Kahoot and surveys.”

Marando says there are occasional complaints from faculty about classroom disruptions due to cellphones, but they are normally dealt with one-on-one between student and professor.

Instead of thinking of cellphones as a distraction let’s turn them into a tool, she adds.

Dr. Robin Kay, a professor in the faculty of education at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), says cellphone use can have negative effects such as anxiety, addiction and depression.

Some of the advantages of cellphone use are accessibility to information such as TED Talks, reading, testing tools and use in a variety of subjects such as math, adds Dr. Kay.

Depending on how tech savvy the user is the phone can be used as a collaborative tool, he says.

Dr. Kay points out Augmented Reality (AR) can be used as a teaching device.

“There is certainly potential of augmented reality in the terms of using the phone and the goggles in a certain way to create a virtual experience,” he says.

Dr. Kay adds the main disadvantage of cellphones is they can be a distraction.

Cellphones can also cause addiction depending on how much the person is on their phone, he says.

According to Dr. Kay, cellphone use can be particularly negative for teens as it offers an easy way for them to bully other students.

“Recently I’ve looked at statistics, the anxiety and depression rate of teens has increased rapidly in the past five years, and it correlates with social media use,” he says.

“This is prevalent with female students, whereas male students might physically hurt each other, female students won’t do that they will do it in an indirect way and social media provides an anonymous and very effective away to literally destroy someone,” he adds.

In regards to the cellphone ban at the elementary and secondary school level, Dr. Kay says, “with teens it makes it this forbidden thing – with all rules especially at that age you make it more attractive by making it prohibited.”

Dr. Kay adds you are not teaching anybody about self-control if you ban cellphones.