Keating says there have been issues with cellphones in classrooms

Southeast Cornerstone School Division Director of Education

July 9, 2024, 10:49 am
Ashley Bochek

Keith Keating, Southeast Cornerstone School Division Director of Education

Southeast Cornerstone School Division Director of Education, Keith Keating, says cellphones are a distraction during class time.

The Premier of Saskatchewan has been recently speaking for this issue of cellphones being a distraction within the classrooms with talks of a provincial ban on cellphones allowed during instructional periods.

The interview follows:

Have cellphones in classrooms been an issue that has been discussed within the education sector?
It is something we have talked about over time. Right now, individual schools within the division manage that in different ways. We allow schools to set their own rules and decide how they want to manage cellphones in the classroom.

Why do you think—with the premier of Saskatchewan starting to talk about possibly banning cellphones from schools­—it is an issue starting to be addressed now?
I think teachers have been addressing it for a long time as well as schools. There are some positives to not having them in the classroom as they can be a distraction, but I think there are some positives to being able to teach students how to use the technology responsibly too.

What have you heard from teachers about this issue?
I would say in general teachers have a policy in their classroom that seems to work for them in this moment—not that there hasn’t been issues at different points in time with cellphone use in the classroom. I think enforcement will be the tough piece around that.

What are your thoughts on cellphones being distracting in the classroom?
I think they can be quite a distraction in classrooms and quite a distraction in people’s lives. There is a time and place for them.

Has the province reached out to school divisions for input on this issue?
They had reached out to the division a little awhile ago to get feedback to see what divisions were thinking. So, we gave our feedback so we will see what the province comes up with.

What do you think is the ideal solution to help with cellphones being a distraction in the classroom?
I think it really depends on the age level or grade level in terms of whether or not they are able to use them responsibly. I think they can become a distraction in the classroom if not managed in the right way.
It is really important regardless whether it is a provincial ban or a school ban—the teachers have the abilities to manage those in the right ways in the classroom. There are some opportunities for example, in some classes to be able to utilize those devices for educational purposes. I am hoping any ban right now would be measured in a way that would allow us to teach students how to use that technology appropriately.

Does every teacher and school set their own policy on how they are used?
Yes. Every school right now has a different policy on how they’re used within school. Some schools have an outright ban during class time depending on grade levels, and some manage that with the individual teacher depending on what subject they teach.

Cellphones have been around for years—why do you think people are talking about it so much now and other provinces putting bans in?
I’m not really sure other than they’re becoming a lot more prevalent in everyday life. More kids are having them at a younger age. We do a lot more with cellphones even in the elementary schools at a certain time which ten years ago you wouldn’t see that, you see it more now.

Across the country have school boards gotten together and talked about best practices around this?
I know within Saskatchewan there has been a bit of feedback to the provincial government from the school boards regarding cellphone use and cellphone use in the classroom. I know different provinces have taken different tacks on that. A couple different provinces have completely banned cellphones within the classroom time and some have different rules around them as well. At certain grades they were allowed them and some grades weren’t allowed to use them at all at school.

Have there been any issues in our school division where the principal has had to get involved because cellphones were creating a distraction or has it usually been able to be handled by the teacher?
I wouldn’t say there has been no issues. There has been some individual issues here and there. It’s mostly dealt with at the classroom or school level though.

What do you think of the fact that the province thinks they might have to be involved?
I think there will be some positives to not allowing them within classrooms, but I think there are some positives to being able to teach students how to use that technology appropriately—it will be a part of their lives eventually. You see that a lot in the workforce—there is an appropriate time to be on your cellphone and there is a time you need to be off them.