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Some provinces are banning cellphones in classes. Here’s where and when


School is almost out for many students in Canada, but though the first day of the new year is months away the classroom may look different when it comes as more provinces announce restrictions on cellphone use in schools that are expected to start this fall.

As of June, there are at least five provinces with restrictions that will come into place this fall, with Quebec’s own measure having taken effect this past January.

B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick all announced they plan to stop students from using their cellphones during class time.

Jennifer Flanagan, the chief executive officer of Actua, a charitable organization that works to build skills in youth in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), told Global News the moves will likely have benefits.

“The dedicated time for student learning while in class is really important (and) the evidence is overwhelming that distraction is already significant,” she said. “Just putting a pause on that (cellphone use) while the learning is happening in class, so generally we think this is a good thing.”

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Click to play video: 'Alberta to ban K-12 cell phone use in classrooms starting this fall'


Alberta to ban K-12 cell phone use in classrooms starting this fall


Depending where you live, though, the rules around cellphone use vary.

In Quebec, the restrictions are specifically tied to the classroom with those in public elementary and high schools still able to use their phones in between classes, but otherwise have to keep them away unless used for educational purposes.


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Ontario, which announced their plans in April, says students will have to put their phones into silent mode and out of view during school hours, a similar policy to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick though the latter provinces will require the phones stored away.

For younger students in Ontario and Nova Scotia, their phones will have to remain stored until the end of day, while secondary students may be able to use them at lunch or between lessons.

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B.C. also says it’s restricting use of cellphones in classrooms “bell-to-bell.”

Alberta announced its policy for all grades from kindergarten to Grade 12 just this week, with devices having to stay out of sight with the exception of use for specialized learning or health needs, like monitoring blood sugar.

Global News reached out to the other provinces and territories which have yet to implement such policies, but as of publication had only received details from Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.


Click to play video: 'Changes surrounding mobile phones coming to Ontario Schools'


Changes surrounding mobile phones coming to Ontario Schools


A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education said they were aware of and are looking at the policies put in place by Alberta and Ontario.

Newfoundland and Labrador officials said personal devices are not permitted in kindergarten to Grade 6 classrooms, and added that use of such devices should only be for educational purposes.

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Sachin Maharaj, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Ottawa, told Global News the varying types of restrictions come down to implementation but also the need for buy-in from parents.

“I think having a tiered approach is something that is more feasible, because it takes into account the fact that parents are the ones purchasing these devices, they’re the ones sending the kids to school with them,” he said.

“So they like being in contact with their kids, and particularly for older children, they might have some legitimate reasons why they need that communication.

He added the provinces are likely taking action due to growing recognition of the impact the devices and social media are having on academic development. He pointed to the recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment studies which showed not only declining numbers in math, reading and science in 15-year-olds in Canada, but technological devices were found to be a big contributor to that decline.

With the rollout, some provinces have said it will be up to school boards and districts to determine how such policies will be implemented and how students will be reprimanded.


Click to play video: 'B.C. restricting cell phone use in schools'


B.C. restricting cell phone use in schools


Maharaj says having districts and boards do the implementation is the smart choice.

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“That is where you’re more likely to be able to do authentic community consultations, bring parents, teachers and students together to create a policy that has some level of buy in,” he said.

Though it’s yet to be seen if other provinces and territories will take similar initiatives before the school year returns this fall, Flanagan said that having these restrictions in place is starting a conversation.

“It has us all talking about how to keep kids safe online, how to educate them of being about being a good person online, and what healthy habits are, and that’s important for all of us,” she said.

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