Toronto

Cellphone ban in Ontario classrooms starts today

A ban on the use of cellphones in Ontario classrooms comes into effect today.

Students can still use personal mobile devices for educational purposes in class

Ontario will be restricting the use of cellphones in classrooms starting Nov. 4. (CBC)

A ban on the use of cellphones in Ontario classrooms comes into effect today.

The ban, first announced by the government earlier this year, had been delayed to give school boards time to implement the restriction.

Under the ban, students can only use personal mobile devices during instructional time if it is for educational purposes, for health purposes, or for special needs.

"We want to ensure students remain focused on learning and attentive to the subject matter ahead," Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce told CBC News. 

"The fact is ... there's a lot of distractions out there ... so our aim is to keep kids focused on the subject matter, retaining knowledge and applying it in life."

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, who announced the ban in August, says: 'We want to ensure students remain focused on learning and attentive to the subject matter ahead.' (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

While some schools already have similar policies in place regarding cellphone use, the ban sets a provincial standard. The province has not said how teachers are going to enforce the ban.

'A simple ban is not going to work'

According to the provincial government, 97 per cent of the parents, students and teachers to whom they spoke during consultations in the fall of 2018 said cellphone use should be restricted in some way.

But Thierry Karsenti, Canada Research Chair on information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education, said while he thinks cellphones are a problem for our society, a ban in schools is not the answer.

"I think [schools] have a mission to educate students, to make them more responsible and I don't think the ban will work," Karsenti told CBC News.

"I think it's the wrong message we're sending to students. I really, really think that we should educate them, try to get them to be more aware of the impacts of technologies on their health, on their psychological behaviour and so on."

Karsenti, also a professor at the Université de Montréal, says any money being spent to institute a cellphone ban in classrooms should be invested in schools and school districts to make sure that students are better users of technologies, more educated and become more responsible.

"It's an educational battle as well. I think that we should see that as a challenge we should face as well, but a simple ban is not going to work," Karsenti said.

TDSB already allows cellphone for educational purposes

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) used to have a cellphone ban, but reversed it after four years to let teachers dictate what works best for their classrooms.

The board has previously said that enforcing an outright ban was next to impossible, and said that to curb technology use would be to place limits on educational opportunities as well.

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said appropriate use of technology is encouraged in the classroom, and students were already allowed to use cellphones for educational purposes.

"There may be a lesson where it makes sense for students to use a cellphone to do research, use it as a calculator. So, when it's for educational purposes, cellphones are allowed," Bird told CBC News.

"Essentially what has happened with these recent changes, to the procedure to bring it in line to the ministry of education, is that what we are already doing is now formalized in an official procedure."

With files from Camille Feireisen

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