Like many other things in life, there is a time and place for cellphones.
Stephen Perchard, acting principal at Corner Brook Intermediate School, is hoping the school’s new policy on technology use will help drive home that message.
While it’s not going to formally come into effect until the start of the second semester in early February, the main component of the policy is already being implemented.
In each learning area, a cellphone chalet or cellphone hotel has been created. These accommodations are used to store cellphones while class is in session.
Parking the phone is being left to the students, who can still opt to keep their devices in their pockets, bags or lockers if they feel they can resist the temptation to use them to text a friend, check social media or play games.
“We are not discouraging or banning phones,” explained Perchard. “We are just trying to encourage and teach proper use.”
There most certainly is a role for cellphones to be properly used in the classroom setting, with permission from the teacher. Perchard said he was recently in a science class where students were making videos and pretending to be newscasters explaining scientific concepts.
“It was creative, it was fun and the kids were into it,” he said. “That’s exactly what we want to use cellphones for: to find ways to make learning relevant and interesting and to talk to kids at their level.
“If the cellphone is a tool we can tap into and motivate them, then why not use it?”
Corner Brook Intermediate doesn’t have any more of a problem with inappropriate cellphone use than any other junior or high school, Perchard believes. The same issue of how to make them less of a distraction and more of an educational asset, he added, is a conversation going on at every school.
Corner Brook Intermediate does embrace technology. Grade 8 students are offered a course in computer coding and the school is looking at ordering 10 more iPads to go with the 20 already on order. Perchard said some teachers use the Google Classroom learning management system in their instruction and some students complete assigned work on their phones.
The draft policy on technology has been passed by the school council and will soon be distributed to parents, so everyone involved with the school is on the same page.
Perchard said the students seem to already know what is appropriate and what is not.
“The students were immediately aware when they saw these chalets and were talking about their expectations,” said Perchard. “And, from what teachers have been telling me, cellphones are less of a distraction already.”
The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District does have its own province-wide policy on technology and social media use in schools, which includes an agreement provided to parents and students at the start of the school year.
Schools can customize the agreement to their own situations. The district said the approach being taken by Corner Brook Intermediate seems to be aligned with the approach many other schools are taking.