July 19th, 2024

LSD to examine plan to limit cellphone use in schools

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on June 18, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The Lethbridge School Division will be spending time over the next few months seeking details by a provincial announcement Monday on the restriction cellphone use within schools.

“As a division, we have always promoted responsible use of technology in our schools. We recognize the use of personal mobile devices and social media is an important consideration as we strive to help our students become responsible citizens in an increasingly digital world. The division will take the time over the next few months to seek more details on Minister’s announcement, as we seek to implement this in our schools. It should be noted, many of our schools have guidelines in place that are similar to what we heard in the announcement today,” said LSD in a media release Monday.

“Through a variety of engagement opportunities, most notably the division’s annual town hall event, the division has heard loud and clear that cellphones and personal devices in the classroom have been an issue,” said board chair Allison Purcell in the release.

“The division is pleased to see the government has set minimum standards for schools, and we are eager to begin the process of examining our policies and procedures.”

The province on Monday said new standards will limit the use of personal mobile devices in classrooms and social media on school networks.

“Personal mobile devices and social media are becoming more present in all aspects of life and Alberta’s classrooms are no exception. While these can be useful tools to support learning, feedback from more than 68,000 parents, teachers, education partners and students, identified that personal mobile devices and social media can negatively impact student achievement and mental well-being,” said the government.

The standards will be implemented by Sept. 1 to “ensure personal mobile devices and social media do not disrupt learning,” it said in a news release.

The standards will create restrictions, procedures for enforcement and exceptions for K-12 schools including public, separate, francophone, public charter, early childhood services operators and independent school authorities.

Exceptions will be made for students who use mobile devices for health and medical needs, says the government, as well as for supporting specialized learning needs and educational purposes.

Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers Association, said in a release the government’s direction reflects ATA policy in keeping students focused on learning “while balancing situations when technology can be used to meet medical and learning needs or outcomes. Teachers and school leaders look forward to having the support of government and school boards as they implement this new policy.”

The provincial NDP said it is “cautiously optimistic” that the needs of parents and educators will be balanced with a ban.

“What we have not seen from the government today is a commitment that students will learn about digital literacy. Learning about a healthy relationship with social media, for instance, could be very beneficial to the wellbeing of all students,” said NDP critic for education Amanda Chapman.

Holy Spirit Catholic School Division was not available for comment at press time Monday.

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