Friday, September 21, 2018

New York Times: France bans smartphones in schools yet some teachers question whether that strategy will work

My co-blogger Scott had previously posted about France's Education Ministry's decision to ban smartphones in all first through ninth grades classes on the premise that it will help students learn better (apparently Denmark is considering similar action). The New York Times has a more extensive report here describing the rationale for the ban and that some teachers question whether it will actually work as students may find ways to surreptitiously use them anyway. The rationale for the ban, of course, is that the distractions smartphones cause interfere with learning and that students are going to have to learn to unplug anyway once they get into the workforce. Here are some pertinent excerpts from the NYT story:

France Bans Smartphones in Schools Through 9th Grade. Will It Help Students?

. . . . .


France’s education ministry hopes that its smartphone ban, which took effect at the beginning of September and applies to students from first through ninth grades, will get schoolchildren to pay more attention in class and interact more, and several studies suggest such correlations.


Some experts are skeptical that the ban can be enforced, and some teachers question the merits of insulating children from the internet-dominated world they will face outside school. But the French government believes that without minimizing distractions, children will never learn the basics.


“If we want to prepare children in the 21st century, we must give them the tools of modernity: mastery of math, of general culture, the ability to flourish in social relationships, a capacity to discuss with others, to understand and respect others and then very strong digital skills,” said Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer.


“It’s a message we send to society: Do not always be on your phones.”

. . . . . 

About 60 percent of French junior high schools already had similar bans, said Frédérique Rolet, the secretary general of a national teachers union.


Under the new law, students can bring their phones to school but must keep them out of sight in their school bags or lockers. If they are caught using them, the phones can be confiscated for a day.


Yet students say they know how to get around the ban.


Grace, the eighth grader, said that even after her school, Françoise Dolto middle school in Paris, introduced its rule last year, she continued to film her friends for Snapchat and Instagram. She just did it clandestinely.


Teachers also doubt whether the ban is enforceable, especially with young teenagers for whom rebellion often trumps any inclination to follow a teacher’s instructions.


“I just don’t know how the law will be put in place,” said Cécile Dhondt, who teaches students who have trouble keeping up in class at College Jean Jaurès middle school in a suburb of Lille, in northern France.


As for taking away phones if students refuse to put them away, she said, “If I confiscated them, my students would not come anymore to class, and that is not the objective.”


David Scellier, who teaches French language and literature at a school in a Paris suburb, said that he doubted the law would be an effective “answer to the addiction problem,” and that responsibility was being put in the wrong place.

. . . . 

Continue reading here.


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