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Opinion: In defence of smartphones in the classroom

Could we be taking away the biggest advantage students today have?
smartphone classroom stock

Newsflash…the age of technology is upon us. We have handheld computers that have one hundred and twenty million times more computing power than the Apollo space capsules that sent men to the moon.

They are here to stay and, according to Moore’s Law, which tells us that technology increases exponentially, in several more years we won’t even recognize the technology relative to today.

If you're a Gen X’er like me or older, you remember a time before MP3 players, DVDs, cell phones, Internet, or home computers; you know what I'm talking about. Imagine what the next decade holds.

So I am left to muse why some Barrie high schools are banning cell phones and removing wifi in the classrooms. I understand the they can be distracting if ground rules are not in place but to deny today’s cutting edge technology from a classroom instead of embracing and exploiting it seems to be a draconian, counterintuitive measure.

To deny that the technological reality of today has any usefulness in the classroom is shortsighted and uninspired. As a citizen, parent and employer I expect more from our educators.

Use of mobile devices is critical to today’s career paths and will become more so as technology becomes more advanced and accessible. Students learning needs to include how to appropriately use these devices in a professional setting. Mobile devices allow a student to have instant access to current events, statistics, maps etc. Mobile technology, if properly incorporated by the teacher, could keep students well informed and up to date with the world around them. Text books get outdated fast are expensive and heavy.

Perhaps the most important part of mobile technology is the fact it encourages learning outside the classroom. Students use these tools to collaborate in ways that we may have never envisioned or imagined. All their projects, notes, research and communications can be with them at all times. Students love technology and are more likely to be excited about learning more with the technology that's in their hands all day.

Taking a tool with that much power and accessibility out of their hands is like extracting the potentially biggest advantage they have as students and future employees away.

Its akin to removing the most robust teaching aid available from our teachers. 

I recently visited my daughters high school and noticed a particularly skimpy library. With the current technology available that makes sense, what doesn't make sense is removing access to the technology that was to replace the rows and rows of books that have disappeared from school libraries.

Perhaps educators in disagreement would be better served by focusing on harnessing mobile technology rather than running from it. School administrators — Don’t ban smart phones and wifi in the classroom, use them to prepare our kids for the future by properly teaching them how to use them.

That technology isn't going anywhere and it certainly isn't a fad. Don't stick your head in the sand, make it work.


About the Author: Rodney Jackson

Rod Jackson is the President of iPi inc. a public affairs firm, former MPP, Councillor and fourth generation resident in the City of Barrie.
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