Ontario schools should be open to the idea of allowing students to use cellphones in the classroom, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.
McGuinty, who won't even let his ministers keep the devices during cabinet meetings, said he understands they can be a major distraction, but there is a "right way" to use them in class.
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"Telephones and BlackBerrys and the like are conduits for information today, and one of the things we want to do is to be well-informed," he said. "And it's something that we should be looking at in our schools."
Using cellphones to take notes
The Toronto District School Board — one of the largest in Canada — is considering a rethink of its cellphone ban.
Board spokeswoman Kelly Baker said students are still required to shut off their cellphones during class, but the board is exploring ways to make them more acceptable in the classroom, such as using them to take notes.
McGuinty's comments raised a few eyebrows since his government has already banned motorists from using cellphones and other hand-held devices while driving.
'I have a son and he's distracted enough already.' —Andrea Horwath, NDP leader
Two years ago, the premier even advised parents to limit their children's use of cellphones over concerns about the long-term effects of kids' exposure to radio frequency waves from the devices.
But he was singing a different tune Wednesday.
"There's a right way and a wrong way to use these things," McGuinty said.
"If the teacher says, 'All right, we're all going to go online right now. We're going to access this information right now.' That's different than this gentleman who's completely ignoring me here and doing his own thing," he added, gesturing towards a texting cameraman.
Opposition says phones are disruptive
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she can't understand why McGuinty would want to add another distraction in the classroom.
"I have a son and he's distracted enough already," she said.
"When he's in the classroom, he should be learning. He should be focusing and concentrating on his schoolwork. Not texting, not surfing, not doing any of that stuff."
Opposition Leader Tim Hudak said it's another flip-flop for McGuinty, who was dubbed "Premier Dad" for his "Father Knows Best" approach to governing.
"I just don't like the idea of cellphones in the classroom disrupting the important work that needs to go on," he said.
"This sounds like another example of Dalton McGuinty backtracking. He wanted to pull cellphones out of cars and now he wants to allow them in the classrooms. I just don't see any consistency in that thinking."