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On smartphones in the classroom: educate rather than ban

Recently, I answered a journalist's questions about smartphones in class. I share here my thoughts on the subject.

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Recently, I answered questions from Geneviève St-Jean, journalist for Planète F, about smart phones in class. We can read his article here. However, as I had taken the time to develop the answers a bit, I will also share them with you here!


Q: I would like to learn more about the approach of schools in Quebec. Are phones regulated, banned, used for educational purposes? 

There are no formal guidelines in Quebec concerning their use, each establishment takes a position. Moreover, Minister Sébastien Proulx already said that he would not address this question and would leave the choice to the circles.

In practice, a school that has a blackout policy, however, could allow a teacher to accept them for a specific project. A school with a more tolerant policy must still leave the choice to teachers who prefer to ban them in their classes.

Allowing students to bring their devices to class allows them to benefit from them (as long as they have them on hand!) In an educational way. Indeed, as the equipment of schools in computer equipment is extremely expensive, an interesting way of seeing things is to take advantage of the devices which are already in the possession of the pupils. In the jargon, this is called the "AVAN" approach, to Bring your digital device (from the English BYOD, for Bring your own device).

Critics say it widens the social gaps between those who don't have one and those who have the latest model. However, research has shown that, precisely, an activity performed by two students in collaboration with a single device gives better results than if each student works on their own. And that's not to mention the fact that you can develop social skills in this way.

What can you do in class with a smartphone?

In fact, a teacher who sets a clear educational goal to achieve by allowing active use of the smartphone is less likely to distraction than one who prohibits it, since young people are forced to use it. Examples: documenting a phenomenon or a scientific experiment in video, creating elements of augmented reality to enrich the reading of a novel, photographing the stages of construction of a model and making an annotated guide, creating an interactive review quiz on a given theme for the other students (then answer it), take collaborative notes in a shared document, listen alone or in a team to a video that gives instructions, film yourself to practice an oral presentation, record yourself to improve its pronunciation in English, etc. In addition, regardless of the brand of devices, they all have useful functions such as a camera, video camera, voice recorder and the ability to access the Internet. Just with this one can do all that was mentioned before and much more.

While busy, students will have less time to be distracted! Also, let's not forget that no sane teacher is ONLY doing screen projects at all times!

A benevolent approach to explore: "tech breaks"

The American psychology professor Larry Rosen also suggests experimenting with " tech breaks " in class. Thus, for 10 minutes of concentrated work, we give a 1 minute break (cumulative) where the student can take his messages, take a tour of his social networks and answer his texts, to then get back to the task. It seems that it decreases their anxiety and allows them to concentrate better. Obviously, it's not about stopping every 10 minutes, but maybe 5-6 minutes every hour ...

As an adult one can hardly understand this feeling of anxiety experienced by many young people when they do not have access to their device. Many of us even see it as disrespect or a sign of being rude! It should not be forgotten, however, that today the smartphone is much more than a telephone. It's a diary, a calculator, a means of communication, a camera, a video camera, an encyclopedia, a walkman, a complete library, a GPS, a television, a notebook, and sometimes even a wallet! Confiscating it has much more serious consequences than confiscating the cap of a young person who refused to take it off when entering the classroom… Be careful, you must not allow everything either, but you must absolutely take this into account when rules are established. A benevolent approach to the issue, an attitude that is increasingly talked about (positively!) In education, would be to try to reconcile the needs of each side, in a respectful framework, by involving young people from the start.


Q: To your knowledge, are there countries that have banned digital learning in primary or secondary education?

Banned completely, not to my knowledge. There are certain educational trends, such as the Waldorf schools, which put the screen aside on the other hand, in favor of a more spiritual approach. Moreover, we sometimes hear on this subject the case of Silicon Valley executives who would register their children in these schools to avoid them being screened… The reality seems rather that each time we talked about this, we were talking about the case of one and the same school, where the registration fees are good high!

Parents' concern is the same everywhere: to offer the best to their children. And in some cases, that includes teaching them how to use digital devices in useful, creative and responsible ways. It should also be remembered that in a class where digital technology is used regularly, young people are not taped on screen all day, nor left to fend for themselves! Teachers are professionals who know how to use the relevant tools among those available to perform a given task. And digital technology enriches this bank of tools from which they can take advantage.


Q: What do you think of the French government's announcement?

Whether we agree or not, digital is part of our lives and it is here to stay. It's a bigger revolution than we can imagine, and it affects us all, like it or not. Now, do we prefer to learn to control these machines or will we be content to let ourselves be controlled by them?

For its part, the French school has passed a law that will ban, from the start of the 2018-2019 primary school year and until the third year of secondary school, the most accessible digital device, the one that many young people already have in poached. Fortunately, we keep the digital equipment plans of the establishments.

They say that digital technology can highlight the best as well as the worst of someone or something… Banning will certainly solve the problem for some teachers and parents in the short term, but in the medium and long term, it will potentially create other problems. more important. In addition, plagiarism, intimidation, disinformation, etc. will not disappear! We even start to talk digital illiteracy for those who know how to consume digital, but not create it… The opportunity cost is great.

About the Author

Audrey Miller
Audrey Millerhttps://ecolebranchee.com
Directrice générale de l'École branchée, Audrey détient une formation universitaire de 2e cycle en technologies éducatives et un baccalauréat en communication publique. Membre de l'Ordre de l'Excellence en éducation du Québec, elle s'intéresse particulièrement au développement professionnel des enseignants, à l'information à l'ère du numérique et à l'éducation aux médias, tout en s'activant à créer des ponts entre les acteurs de l'écosystème éducatif depuis 1999. Elle s'implique cette année notamment dans l'Association Edteq et en tant que membre du comité d'orientation stratégique de l'ACELF.

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