N Touch
Sunday 23 September 2018
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That cellphone ban

TTUTA writes a weekly column for the Newsday.

The possession of cellphones (camera phones in particular) during school hours has once again come to the fore. The question is, should students be allowed to retain these devices while school is in session?

This issue can be viewed from two perspectives. From a strictly legal standpoint, it must be remembered that the Constitution guarantees all citizens, regardless of age, the right to ownership and enjoyment of property.

The Education Act of 1966 does not give any teacher or principal the power to suspend that right, even though they operate in loco parentis. School rules cannot supersede the law of the land. This is a fundamental principle that must guide school officials when developing and enforcing school rules.

Bearing this in mind, the Ministry of Education developed an official policy document to guide school officials on the use of hand-held electronic devices. This policy document clearly states that students cannot be denied the ownership of these devices.

If, however, their use by students poses a distraction to the teaching and learning process, such use can be regulated. The document therefore suggests that these devices must be powered off while in school; of course, this comes with the challenge of enforcement.

School officials must also be alerted to the fact that students are responsible for the safekeeping of their property. If these devices are confiscated from students, responsibility for the safety and well-being of same is transferred from the student to the school official. It translates that if these devices are seized by school officials during the school day, even though it distracts from the teaching and learning process, the school officials can be held accountable if something goes wrong with the device. In extreme cases, schools have been made to pay for electronic devices that went missing after being seized by school officials.

From an educational perspective, it is unwise for educators to ban the use of any technology in the classroom. This technology defines human existence and children engage its use from a very tender age with the encouragement of their parents.

The challenge for educators should rather be one of determining how the technology can be incorporated into the teaching and learning process. Such communication technologies represent an ideal opportunity to leapfrog teaching methodologies into the modern era, providing ample opportunity for learning to become relevant and meaningful.

Its use provides an ideal chance for teachers to truly connect with learners given their fascination. While some teachers may find this somewhat challenging, there is abundant educational research to support this approach. There is also abundant information on how its use can be infused into the classroom to enhance student learning outcomes.

As self-directed, life-long learners that teachers ought to be, this should not be a difficult proposition. As professionals teachers ought to keep abreast of changing technologies and be ready and willing to adapt to the changing circumstances of the classroom.

There is no doubt that ours is a screen-age generation and excluding the use of communication technologies from the classroom is a retrograde education step. Like all other technologies, there are downsides to its use, but we cannot exclude its use because of this.

The benefits of its use far outweigh the negatives. What we must in fact do as educators is to teach children its responsible use, including the voyeurism that some are obsessed with, like adults in the society.

While the engagement of any technology that is evolving at such a rapid pace is indeed challenging, banning its use may be a position that educators should carefully reconsider. Education must be dynamic and abreast of technology to remain relevant.

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