Technology: Incredible Tool or Classroom Distraction?

Appropriate use can be a concern when students are given individual pieces of technology and set free to explore the World Wide Web. Significant trust is placed between a teacher and his/her students, to avoid behaviours such as: cyber-bullying, searching inappropriate websites, safe handling of devices, unauthorized photo taking/posting, and mis-use (texting during class etc.).

A 2015 study by the London School of Economics and Political Science compared test scores at 91 schools in England. Researchers found that test scores were higher at schools where cellphone use is prohibited. Furthermore, students who tended to have low academic grades benefited the most from a technology ban.

What are school boards doing to ensure appropriate technology use?

Some school boards are adopting a Use of Technology Policy to govern the way technology is used by Board employees and students. York Region DSB, for example, includes a variety of irresponsible and unethical uses of technology within their policy document. These include: sending, receiving, or downloading content that is illegal, using electronic devices to record other individuals without their permission, and modifying or gaining access to files, passwords or data that belongs to other individuals.

What are educators in their classroom to do when technology is being misused?

With electronic devices costing hundreds of dollars, administrators and union representatives are hesitant to allow teachers to remove a device from a student’s possession. Some teachers implement a no technology policy, whereby students are forbidden from bringing any form of technology device to class. Other teachers allow students to have devices strictly for online educational applications. Unfortunately, in most schools there does not appear to be a consistent stance on technology use.

With an exception…

Earl Grey Senior Public School in Toronto officially banned the use of cellphones in February, 2017. The school has implemented a new policy which restricts cellphone use to lunch periods and time between classes. Furthermore, students are not allowed to access social media websites or to text at any point in the school day. The ban has brought about conflicting opinions on technology use, with some parents arguing students should have access and others agreeing that technology is distracting students from their learning experience.

What is the solution?

There is no clear-cut solution. Technology is not going to disappear. Are we better to remove technology or to teach students how to use it appropriately? I believe the latter is a more appropriate solution. When students enter the workforce they will have to make the decision to put their phone away or face consequences from their employer. As educators we should be embracing the benefits of technology, and seeing technology as an incredible tool. We must teach students about appropriate use, help students to utilize their device to its full potential, and ensure our students recognize when their device is hindering their learning.





Author: bkoebel92

Brandon Koebel is passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of youth. He is a secondary math teacher in Ontario and is currently working towards his Master of Education degree with a focus on education and digital technology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (Oshawa). Brandon is particularly interested in meaningful mobile technology integration. Brandon serves as Vice Chair on the Hanover and District Hospital Board of Governors, and was previously a Governor at Trent University. In his spare time, Brandon enjoys water skiing, swimming, CrossFit and running.

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