A high school should be the last place you find opposition to progress.
Yet, every so often, one school district or another attempts to block access to social media channels like Facebook, Snapchat or whatever is the latest craze. In some places — like Ontario — they are even attempting to restrict smartphones altogether.
We say attempting because, in the long term, this ill-thought-out policy is doomed. First, Ontario’s restrictions are no more than what would be polite or even already in place by classroom teachers.
Also, teens are sneaky, and if they are really determined to use their phones, they will find a way.
But mostly, trying to restrict technology is impossible. Whatever rules you think are workable today, aren’t going to be a year or two from now, as tech — especially smartphones — become more and more integrated with our daily lives.
It’s kind of like the story of the boy with his finger in the dike trying to hold back the flood, except, in this case, more holes are appearing all the time.
On the other hand, educators in those schools could do just that: educate. Social media, instant access to information and all the other things that come with living in the Information Age are an integral part of these student’s lives. There are many things, though, that they need to learn.
Proper use of technology and smartphone etiquette should be a formal course, taught at all grade levels.
Not pulling out your phone to text a friend while a teacher is on stage would be a basic rule, the same as passing notes in class has always been forbidden.
It’s certainly reasonable for teachers to require students to put their devices away if they aren’t required in class, but it’s just as reasonable for students to make use of them when needed.
There was a time when the use of electronic calculators was forbidden. That eventually failed, as they became accessible to more and more students. No doubt schools also objected to the slide rule when it was invented in 1622.
Even if it is only for five hours of the school day, there is no point in trying to turn the clock back or make inflexible rules; there is just no telling what changes tech will bring in the future.
The way forward is not to say no, but to teach when and how.