LETTER: Educators, please ban cell phones in the classroom

An open letter to B.C. educators:

I am a mother of two in North Vancouver who is experiencing first hand the frightening consequences of technology in my community.

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I am seeing kids younger and younger getting addicted to cellphones, I am seeing teenagers going to extremes to feed their tech addictions, and it causing a large emotional toll of them and their families.

As a computer scientist who has taught at universities and worked in industry for more than 20 years, I get enraged when I hear politician tell me that STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] jobs require children to be exposed to tech in the classroom. That is absolute hogwash - my best students are the ones that have spent the least amount of time in front of a screen.

I am concerned that we are living in a world that increasingly demands that we own smart phones and are connected to the internet 24/7. I feel like the infiltration into the school system is especially alarming.

I see high school students being asked to take pictures of notes to solve their learning challenges around note taking and organization. Asking a student to take pictures of the board, then later print them up, and study from them (or study from them on a screen) requires more organization (and self-discipline while using the device) than the original note taking.

In the younger grades I see many teachers using their smartphones to photo document daily events - this perpetuates the message to our children that experiences are only meaningful if they are photographed and shared with others. I see the middle grades having unsupervised use of iPads - and inappropriate content making its way into their brains because firewalls and IT support is lacking.

I want to draw your attention to the minority of students who do not own smartphones - children who opt out of tech and 24/7 internet connectivity. They should still be able to access the same type of education and information as those that opt in. I believe it goes as far as our charter of human rights - access to information, without discrimination.

As our school district and provincial educators are faced with decisions about how to adopt technology in the education system please keep these considerations in mind. Please do not make smartphones and 24/7 internet connectivity a requirement of our education system. Consider a no cell bell-to-bell rule.

Kim Tucker
Lynn Valley

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