Educators mull new cell phone policy
A new policy on the use of mobile phones in schools is now before various stakeholders in education including teachers’ trade unions and school principals for consideration and comment.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones first hinted in June at the possible lifting of the ban on cellphone use by students when he said during a speech at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College that the current policy was contradictory since it suggested one set of rules for teachers and another for students.
He announced last week that a new policy would be introduced allowing students to take their phones to school because, “when we examined over the last five years or so the whole notion of a cell phone ban in schools, we recognized the smartphone is also a learning instrument and to pursue the path that we had hitherto pursued is counter to how the technology should be used for student learning”.
The minister gave further details yesterday when he addressed the weekly Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP’s) lunchtime lecture at the party’s George Street auditorium on the topic Educational Imperatives for the 21st Century: the Barbados Agenda.
He stated that the revised document, along with a new position paper on the “broader use” of the internet, would be sent to Cabinet for approval after the various interest groups submitted their input.
“As part of those policies it says parents and students must be on board and they must sign a commitment to use it properly within the schools, or then some things will happen. You will lose access to all of it,” Jones said.
Pointing to changes within the education system and developments in technology since the ban was imposed over five years ago, Jones said it was necessary to focus on high standards for all involved in the industry through “versatility in the face of change”.
The minister noted it was necessary to find ways to use technology to facilitate teaching instead of trying to “hide it from education”.
“We need to prepare the children for the great and diverse demands of the 21st century. What we will have to do is say ‘yes, we have to adapt it for education purposes, but we have to teach the ethical use of the technology’ – tablets, smartphones and whatever else will be developed in the future,” Jones said.
Stressing that “we can’t run” from technology, he noted he would be “the most half-foolish” to “empty” the technology from the classrooms in this century, and dismissed suggestions that greater use of technology in the classrooms would make it more difficult for teachers to “control” the students.
Stating that the education system “was established on failure”, Jones said, “the new mantra is about as much success as possible”.
“I hope that within the two first weeks of September that new technology policy and digital mobile policy will be in our schools. Parents will sign and students will sign saying ‘we are going to follow what is there, give them a chance to be disciplined. That is what we are going to do,” Jones said.
“And we will soon be rolling out, once the resources are there . . . We can’t run and hide. It is impossible. And Barbados has an extremely dense penetration of smartphones and tablets,” he added. (MM)