Minister of Education Ronald Jones believes current policy governing cellphone use in schools is contradictory since it suggests one set of rules for teachers and another for students.
Speaking at the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College today, Jones gave his biggest hint to date that the present ban on cellphone use among students may soon be lifted.
“I can see photos and videos of a class or classes and teachers on their cellphones in front of the children . . . . That is the contradiction of our reality,” said Jones, while arguing that in a rapidly changing technological era “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 cellphone or some other piece of technology,” Jones added.
He also asked: “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’.”
Maintaining that children learned by the use of technology, the Minister of Education emphasized the need for a much broader national education policy.
“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. “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,” Jones added, while pointing to the existence of the Computer Misuse Act, which had the ability to trace most of the material back to its origin, even to those who passed it on.
He also said the Ministry was doing a lot of work to ensure there was good curriculum material for all of the technological tools.
“You can’t take out your cellphone 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 in 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 current needs.
Recalling there was a group in Barbados which said it wanted WiFi made available across the island, Jones 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.”