Robertson says there is no need for cellphones in the classroom

Good Spirit School Division Director of Education

July 9, 2024, 10:43 am
Ashley Bochek

Quintin Robertson, Good Spirit School Division Director of Education

Quintin Robertson, Good Spirit School Division Director of Education, says there is no need for cellphones to be used during instructional time as other technology is accessible for students in the classroom.
The interview is below:

With cellphones being a topic of issue in the classroom right now—have cellphones in classrooms been discussed as an issue before?
It has been discussed at the board table and the administrative table. We’re in the process of reviewing our administrative procedure about cellphones in the classroom—trying to anticipate what might be coming from the province. There has been a foreshadowing that there might be some direction coming.
The stance that we are taking is cellphones will not be utilized during instructional periods both by staff and students. We will likely be introducing that depending on what might be coming from the province. In the new year the administrative procedure is up for review, so we develop it, put it up to review to our schools, then we get feedback and try to revise. We’re looking at the new year in that we will be at a 1-to-1 ratio for chromebooks. Every student from grades 4-12 will have their own chromebook in the fall and every child in Kindergarton-grade 3 there will be a 2-to-1 ratio for ipads so that the instructional need for cellphones is basically zero.

Have cellphones in the classroom been an issue in your schools?
It doesn’t surface as a massive issue. Honestly, it is not something that comes up from our administrators frequently—vaping would probably be our biggest issue at our schools. I think it is because we have such a high prevalence of technology. The kids using their cellphones isn’t as problematic, but we will have a division-wide cellphone ban during instructional periods. Students will not be using their cellphones—they will need to be put away or handed in, depending on the school and what their approach is and we would have the same expectations for our staff, that we aren’t on our cellphones. Of course there are provisions if, for instance, we have staff members that use their cellphone for tracking insulin levels or students that have epilepsy and their cellphones are used as a safety measure.

Why do you think—with the premier talking about possibly banning cellphones—is it starting to be an issue that is addressed now?
I think there is lots of evidence that suggests to having cellphones out use of distraction. I am sure the premier is responding to that and trying to put measures in place to keep students from being distracted in schools. I think there is good intent and we’ll all follow the lead of the province if it is more stringent than what we have—I highly expect it will be very similar—that during instructional time students aren’t to have their cellphones out, but during recess time and lunch that might be more permissible.

If the province decides cellphones aren’t to be used during class time, will that be enforced by the teacher or by the school administrators?
Both would have to enforce that. At the school division level you operate on policies. We have 20 board policies and then from that we have about 300 administrative procedures. We have developed an overall administrative procedure and then schools need to follow that. They will all have their own little nuance—maybe one teacher has a classroom that makes kids put their cellphones in a door pocket. As long as it is not out and in use during class time that will be fine.

What are your thoughts on a provincial ban on cellphones?
Of course we will follow the premier’s direction and if it is a ministerial order then we follow it. Of course we adhere to those guidelines. I think cellphones can be a distraction and with the technology we have in place and available to students there really is no need for a cellphone to be out for instruction—it would just be a distraction at that point. There really is no need for it and if a student needs to get in touch with a parent those things can be made available during break or other periods, just like in the old days when we had a phone on the wall and contacted our moms and dads.

Has the province reached out to school divisions for input on this issue?
No. We would have received something a few months back. This is forthcoming and to anticipate the direction we already had a cellphone policy that was quite out of date so we needed to update it which we have done, and aligned it with our technology use in classrooms so, we are ready in the event that something comes out and if it doesn’t I think we are also ready to have our procedure in place and be supported by students. I have spoken to many students, and they’re comfortable with the approach we have taken and I am certain we will have support from our communities.

Over the years has the cellphone policy changed?
Ours was very out of date and probably hadn’t been reviewed in the last 10 years. We review administrative procedures every week, but that one for whatever reason just hadn’t been reviewed so I think that is a reflection that it really wasn’t a big problem—schools were managing it on their own and for the most part schools were having students not using their phones during instructional time so I think we have adjusted our procedure to match what was already happening.