Toronto Star

Premier has schools a-Twit­ter

McGuinty’s mus­ings to al­low smart­phones reignite con­tro­versy

- LOUISE BROWN AND KRISTIN RUSHOWY ED­U­CA­TION RE­PORTERS Bullying · Education · Society · Twitter · Ontario · Thornhill · BlackBerry · Regional Municipality of York · York · Hillcrest Community School · Toronto · Ireland · iPhone · Richmond Hill

To some teach­ers, it’s OMG Dal­ton, what are you think­ing? Oth­ers said it is gr8 the premier wants cell­phones al­lowed in On­tario class­rooms, as long as it is to help kids learn. Learn? Thorn­hill math teacher David Fraschetti scoffs, ar­gu­ing the temp­ta­tion to text-mes­sage is too strong for most young dig­i­tal na­tives to re­sist. “The whole is­sue is dis­trac­tion; one stu­dent last year claimed he couldn’t phys­i­cally get his fin­gers off his Black­Berry and his par­ents ad­mit­ted there was noth­ing they could do — he texts at the din­ner ta­ble too,” said the vet­eran teacher at Thorn­hill Sec­ondary School. “Tex­ting is a huge, huge is­sue — they’re go­ing off all the time in class. It’s just sec­ond na­ture to these stu­dents.” Many school boards, in­clud­ing York Re­gion, Peel and the Toronto District School Board, pro­hibit cell­phones

Tra­di­tional ideas of at­ten­tive­ness chal­lenged

to be on in class, yet stu­dents con­tinue to text on the sly.

At one York Re­gion high school, seven stu­dents agreed to leave their cell­phones at the front as an ex­per­i­ment dur­ing a 75-minute sci­ence pe­riod.

In to­tal, the phones re­ceived 78 text mes­sages — all from within the school.

“For ev­ery text mes­sage, that’s at least two kids not pay­ing at­ten­tion,” noted teacher Colleen Ire­land, pres­i­dent of the On­tario Sec­ondary School Teach­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion in York Re­gion, who warned cell­phones can be used to cheat, bully and snap em­bar­rass­ing pho­tos of teach­ers and stu­dents.

And it’s not al­ways from BFFs. One stu­dent asked Fraschetti for help with math af­ter school, only to have his mother con­tin­u­ally in­ter­rupt the one-on-one ses­sion by tex­ting.

“I fi­nally called to re­mind her of our pol­icy against cell­phones in class,” he re­called, “but her com­ment was, ‘It’s af­ter class.’ ”

De­bate about cell­phones in school was all a-Twit­ter across the prov­ince Wed­nes­day af­ter McGuinty said he be­lieves school boards should be free to per­mit hand-held technology if it helps in learn­ing.

Toronto school trustee Josh Mat­low noted this is the same premier who banned cell­phones while driv­ing and who for­bids his own cabi­net min­is­ters from tex­ting dur­ing meet­ings.

“Our pol­icy al­lows cell­phones in class if a prin­ci­pal feels there is a pur­pose,” said Mat­low, “but oth­er­wise, we need to do more to help stu­dents show re­spect by not tex­ting in class.”

Toronto Grade 12 stu­dent Anne Hardy agrees tex­ting while some­one is teach­ing is “to­tally dis­re­spect­ful, but if it’s a re­ally bor­ing sub­ject, it’s some­times tempt­ing.” She said stu­dent phones went off twice Wed­nes­day in her classes at North Toronto Col­le­giate, where re­peat of­fend­ers have had their phones sent to the of­fice and needed a par­ent to pick them up.

Yet some teach­ers em­brace the use of hand-held phones in class.

Teacher Royan Lee had his Grade 7 stu­dents brain­storm­ing on iPhones and iPads Wed­nes­day about which books the class should read. The Rich­mond Hill teacher has a class set of hand-held de­vices and also in­vites stu­dents to bring theirs in for note-tak­ing, re­search and per­sonal or­ga­ni­za­tion. He says while one stu­dent is talk­ing, the class can be hav­ing a “back-chan­nel dis­cus­sion” on Twit­ter about his com­ments, which is far more en­gag­ing than just sit­ting and rais­ing your hand.

“It def­i­nitely chal­lenges the tra­di­tional ideas of at­ten­tive­ness, but just be­cause some­one is sit­ting with their hands in their lap doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean they’re lis­ten­ing ei­ther.”

Ge­orge Del Bianco’s Grade 9 sci­ence class at Rich­mond Hill High was in a park Wed­nes­day as part of an ecol­ogy les­son that had stu­dents us­ing their phones to take pic­tures and shoot video.

“Cell­phones def­i­nitely can be a dis­trac­tion in the class­room, but we are learn­ing to em­brace technology so we can cap­ture kids’ at­ten­tion,” said Del Bianco. Sud­denly, spot­ting a frog “be­came the most ex­cit­ing thing be­cause they were video­tap­ing it on their phone.”

He com­pares the con­tro­versy to the old de­bate over cal­cu­la­tors in class, “and look what hap­pened.”

 ?? DINA MOGHADAM PHOTO ?? In an iPhone photo taken by stu­dent Dina Moghadam, teacher Royan Lee, left, brain­storms with class at Beverley Acres Pub­lic School in Rich­mond Hill.
DINA MOGHADAM PHOTO In an iPhone photo taken by stu­dent Dina Moghadam, teacher Royan Lee, left, brain­storms with class at Beverley Acres Pub­lic School in Rich­mond Hill.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada