Many if not all school boards in Ontario already have policies on the use of mobile devices in their facilities. Some are outright bans -- don't even pull them out in the building -- whereas others are more nuanced, spelling out where they can or cannot be used. Some boards put wording into their policies restricting certain behaviours using the devices but not outright banning their existence or use within classrooms.
It's not a cut-and-dry issue. While we're apt to think students will be using their cellphones for all sorts of silly purposes in classes (and many certainly have) some parents also enjoy a child's cellphone as a way of reaching them. A phone call can be left unanswered, but parental texts are at least received before they're ignored. Parents have also stated their concern in the past that they want to be able to reach their children in case of an incident or emergency of any kind, either within the family or one that happens at the school.
This last type of policy is the nuanced approach I think the premier was trying to hit with his comments on Wednesday. Certainly that appeared to be the case with his question-period response Thursday morning, which his office e-mailed out to the media, complete with an attached .mp3 of the response. The QP clip from that e-mail:
Let me be very clear with the two statements. First of all, texting or the use of cell phones to socialize during class is distraction and it does not belong in a classroom, period. Secondly, Speaker, we trust teachers and boards and parents to make the right call when it comes to ever changing technologies. If those technologies can help our students learn, that is a good thing, Speaker. If they don't, if they are a distraction, then they should not be in the classroom. It’s as simple as that.The clip is also embedded above.
What had me shaking my head, however, was when I received this e-mail from the Progressive Conservative's media office just before 2 p.m. Wednesday. It said, in part:
Dalton McGuinty demonstrated yet again today just how out of touch he is with the values and concerns of hard-working Ontario families and parents when he said he is open to the idea of the use of cellphones in the classroom.I sorely hope this is not the tone of the discussion and debate we have set before us in a year's time during the next election campaign. We're certainly capable of having a more intelligent discussion than this.
With cellphones in the class room and Dalton McGuinty’s sex-ed classes for six year olds, it’s only a matter of time until we have “sexting” in our schools. Shouldn’t our kids be learning math and science instead?
Cellphones in the classroom is an absurd idea. So absurd that Dalton McGuinty will likely backtrack on it within days. Is this an example of McGuinty’s claim that he has a “more intelligent understanding” of the concerns of families? Clearly, Dalton McGuinty has changed and is not the same person Ontarians thought they were electing years ago.