Changes Soon To Cell Phone Use In Schools

Published on June 19, 2015 by Joy-Ann Gill

Minister of Education, Ronald Jones speaking at the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College today. (A.Miller/BGIS)

Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, has hinted that changes will be coming in September to address the use of cell phones within school. 

Speaking following the opening of courses at the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, today at Pine Road, the Minister said this would not be in any wanton way but would be to ensure the use of the technology with a sensible set of policies. 

Observing that there were contradictions with respect to cell phones in school, Mr. Jones said: “I can see photos and videos of a class or classes and teachers on their cell phones in front of the children. I can see that…That is the contradiction of our reality.”

Acknowledging that we were in the era of technology that was constantly changing, the Minister stressed: “We can’t shut children away from technology use and particularly that for educational use. If we look at how it is used sometimes we would say we can’t do it. But it would take a whole day to go through every bag in every school searching for a cell phone or some other piece of technology. 

“Am I going to put the laptop out of school? They have all of the apps and software that you can find on a smartphone…every single thing that you can find is in the computer, the laptop, the iPad or tablets. All of those things are there and I don’t think we can shoot ourselves in the foot by saying ‘move all of them out of school’,” he stated.

The Education Minister contended that we had to consider a wider policy that zeroed in on learning that still had built into it certain controls. “You can’t take out your cell phone in the classroom and make a call just like we say to the teachers ‘you can’t be using the classroom to make calls in front of the children’. You’re adults but use that for your staff room,” he said, adding that it was not about a relaxation in the policy but the writing of a new policy that took into consideration the need to use the technology for learning. 

Recalling there was a group in Barbados which said it wanted WiFi made available across the island, the Education Minister said: “That is a brilliant endeavour but to give the WiFi and then you don’t have the other technologies to go with it is really counterproductive.” 

He also noted that the Ministry was doing a lot of work to ensure there was good curriculum material for all of the technological tools. Mr. Jones further pointed out that the Ministry wanted to see students acting as “a voice for reason”, and more supervision undertaken by adults. 

“We need to do a little more supervision of our children and talk to them about the ethical, sensible use of technology rather than some of the sensational,” he said, noting that some people might not be aware of the existence of the Computer Misuse Legislation which had the ability to trace most of the material back to its origin, even to those who passed it on.

Maintaining that children learned by the use of technology, the former educator noted that the e-book was cheaper and more enduring than the hardcover paperback. “So, all of that has to be part of the transition. Schools themselves will have to monitor, police, and support the transition that will come. It is because of the educational value that we will also have to get in stride,” he said.