Would parents pay for mobile phones if schools allowed them to be used as learning tools? Most would, according to the recent Speak Up 2010 report — 67 percent of parents, to be exact.

We took this data a step further and asked MindShift readers if parents would pay for data plans, specifically to be used for Internet research and classroom projects. Most said they would, some said they’d first want to consider how student searches would be monitored, and a few grumbled about having to pay even more for services the school should provide.

Comments ranged from, “Wow, the school system begging from the parents again” to a more capitulated perspective. “Lately we [parents] get asked to pay for so much extra stuff in schools. We pay the suggested money to feed classroom animals and more for science education materials,” said Baat Enosh, mother of a kindergartner. “If I thought that having phones in class would help kids learn, I’d be pretty positive about it. I equate it to the expensive scientific calculators that our families used to be asked to buy for us.”

One reader pointed out that if schools provided wireless access, wifi-enabled phones would obviate the need for data plans.

Stacey Foreman, mother of two grade-school-age sons, said she wouldn’t question paying for monthly plans if they assisted learning. “Kids are native to digital information–we’re making it harder for success by pretending that media aren’t evolving. Lugging around outdated textbooks and completing paper worksheets are barriers to learning in this day and age.” Lots of students feel the same way.  Project Tomorrow report found that 53 percent of middle and high school students surveyed said that their biggest obstacle to using technology in school is the inability to use devices such as cell and smart phones.

For many parents, the issue of phones in classrooms is about educational gain and safety.

Rashmi Sinha, mother of a preschooler, said her primary concern in sending her daughter to class with phone in hand would be its educational benefit. “How would usage be monitored? How would we be sure kids are using devices to learn? Mobile usage is a skill they need anyhow, but I’d want to know the teachers’ plans before I paid.”

Therese Jilek, a Wisconsin-based parent, would request schools to provide a plan for learning, instruction and supervision practices that involve mobile devices. She’d want built-in safeguards and student instruction on safe Internet use, she said.

When it comes to accessing online textbooks with mobile phones, 61 percent of parents said they like the idea, according to the Project Tomorrow report.

“With the Kahn Academy, DIY University and other [resources], eventually we will deconstruct the economies built around traditional educational institutions and all that goes with them–expensive books, curricula, etcetera,” said Jean Hagan, creative director and the think tank Institute for the Future. “The technology is just the enabler, but we are on the brink of education reform like the U.S. has not seen in decades.”

The inevitable question looms: What happens to those families who might want to, but can’t afford to pay for expensive data plans? The issue bounces back to schools providing wireless Internet access — and how much of the Internet is blocked. Goes to show how dependent schools, parents, and educators are on each other.

[Additional reporting by arts and culture commentator Emily Goligoski: @emgollie]

  • Xixiang87


  • Concerned Parent

    Because of the potential health effects from electromagnetic radiation, the governments of France, Germany, Israel, UK, Russia, Korea, Finland, Switzerland and the EU have issued official warnings or restrictions to children and the youth against the use of wireless electronic devices. Not only do we not receive such warnings over here, wireless technology is being aggressively marketed and implemented in schools in North America, and our children and young people are being targeted as a lucrative market for the sale of these devices. Parents and educators, please remember that children are 3 to 5 times more vulnerable to the adverse health effects of radiation. Do NOT sacrifice the long-term health of our children for the sake of convenience!

  • Technology is an amazing tool, now a necessary part of our lives and our children’s futures. Parents answer questionnaires such as those used by the Speak Up 2010 report, and give consent, feeling it is their responsibility to support their children, thinking and hoping they are participating in their brighter future. Sadly, they do this without awareness of the harmful long term consequences of the wireless component, the evidence for which is now scientifically supported by an overwhelming number of reputable reports and studies. Schools and colleges are diving headlong into initiatives to replace faster, biologically safer and more secure wired computers with the seductive convenience of wireless ones, trusting Health Canada to advise and reassure their safety. Our Government desperately needs to re-evaluate its outdated Safety Code 6 in light of new studies showing harm from wireless devices and networks. This doesn’t mean going backwards. It simply requires a proactive examination and encouragement of safer alternatives, and funding to pursue them.

  • Anonymous

    As a teacher, I see a multitude of problems now arising from an unchecked acceptance of wireless technologies in schools, homes and communities. These wireless tools and toys are launched with the encouragement of the Wireless Industy, for profit, with no serious thought given to their harmful biological effects. As a result, learning and behavioural problems are escalating in children and youth. Wi-Fi and other wireless “learning aides” in school, embraced naively by parents and educators with the shameless encouragement of the wireless industry, are not the blessing they appear to be.

    Schools need to provide, not convenience, but a safe learning environment, separate from the increasingly toxic environments outside their walls. I concur with “Concerned Parent” in saying that a realistic knowledge needs to be sought before any more requests for money, or support, are presented. Health and Industry Canada need to do their homework with open eyes and minds. We need to temper our enthusiastic and misguided adoption of a convenient technology with sober second thought.

  • I returned to university after I retired and had to quit mid-semester (and lose $1,000 tuition) because I had increasing problems seeing my computer screen under fluorescent lights. I was so frustrated and physically hurting that I was yelling at the instructor to fix this when he really had nothing to do with it; he nearly kicked me out for inappropriate behaviour and he would have been right. Then I was diagnosed as electro-hyper-sensitive (EHS), and realized that my symptoms had become steadily worse as WiFi was rolled out across the campus. I hadn’t been able to go to the new library at all and thought it was the lights, when in fact the library was the first building to be WiFi’d. The cell tower placed directly above the library didn’t help either. My advice to parents: be careful what you wish for, lest you get a child as sick and crazy as I was until I figured out the problem and reduced my exposure. Your child will undoubtedly be punished for behaviour such as mine, and you’ll be left with a kid who has no way to regulate her physical discomfort, his emotional distress, and absolutely no self-esteem left afterwards. Don’t expect help from your doctor either, because they get disciplined for thinking outside the medical association’s box and because they know as much about the effects of radio frequency (microwave) electro-magetic radiation as you do.

  • healthier minds & bodies

    Is it possible children are having greater difficulty focusing and retaining new information while in school due to the ever present distraction of their wireless hand held devices buzzing, chirping, and ringing at all times, keeping their minds darting from one blip of a screen to the next. Many scientists are now discovering wireless radiation causes a stress like response in our bodies releasing hormones that increase anxiety, depression, fatigue, and inflammation to name a few. The constant bombardment of artificial microwaves from our ubiquitous world of electronic gadgets have many scientists concerned our children will pay the biggest price. I would like to see with all the wireless gizmotry we have had around for the last decade plus, the improvements to our children’s lives and education. Quite to the contrary, our youth are doing worse in school than ever, with inactivity, addiction, suicide, and mental and health issues only rising. Those of us over thirty five grew up before the wireless ‘revolution ‘ was upon us and did just fine, receiving an education before facebook or twitter were there to distract us from our studies. Maybe it’s time we get back to the basics where many children are severely lacking instead of aiding and abetting the problem. Many would say let’s put our attention and funding into smaller classroom sizes, more quality teachers, and healthier foods in our schools instead of more glittery gadgets that are unproven for safety or for improving cognition. Convenience of wireless is certainly not worth the health and well being of our youngest and brightest. Let’s see past the pretty picture industry likes to dangle in front of us constantly and wake up to the serious situation our children are now facing in the wake of ‘anytime or anywhere’ connectivity. We are failing them if we think adding more gadgets and wireless radiation is the answer. There are safer and better choices.


  • Grant Holmes

    I as a parent, restrict all exposure for my children to microwave radiation from wireless devices. I would NOT PAY to cause my child cancer, brain tumours, leukemia, parotid gland tumors, depression, anxiety, memory problems, immune system problems, insomnia, DNA damage, sperm damage, concentration difficulties, headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations & irregular heartbeat. This is all so stupid – depriving these young people of a hopeful future for the small convenience in the classroom. Plus the personality impacts and addictive nature of many applications. School boards have lost touch with raising children properly if this is the kind of crap they try to bring into schools. Look at Interphone study – 1,640 hours cell phone exposure brings 40% increase in three brain tumours. Italian courts have awarded damages to employee with auditory canal tumour where employer required cell phone use – judge would only look at non-industry funded science. Schools have no liability insurance for this – and the class action lawsuits for insisting on exposing our young ones in school are going to come, without doubt. Hardell study shows 400% increase in brain tumours for young adults when they started using cell phones in their teens. Stop already. Just because the average parent hasn`t time to research all this, the schools need to err on the side of caution. A Type II error is where the information is out there showing risk, and the decision to go ahead is made hoping the risk and danger disappears. Well, with regards to microwave radiation from wireless devices, people are just getting sicker, and young people sooner. Schools making a decision to go ahead and cause more exposure are making a decision for which they will be open to all manner of liability charges.

  • Chris

    I am shocked that more parents aren’t more educated about the possible health effects associated with the use of these devices, particularly with respect to children. Hardwired computers (particularly in elementary schools) provide safe, secure access to technology (both Smart boards and computers). The use of cell phones in class??!! As a parent, this thought is scary to me. As a teacher, the suggestion is LUDICROUS to me. Health issues aside, I can just envision my intermediate aged students texting, msning, facebooking etc.etc..when they are supposed to be working. (Don’t even get me started on the implications for bullying.)
    I read an article recently that stated professors in some of the top American universities are now banning WiFi enabled devices from their classrooms because the university students can’t focus on their lessons.

    (A mobile phone company must have its hand in either the survey or this online magazine. It’s an automatic response I have when I read about results or articles like this. These companies have their hands in everything…)

  • Louise

    I would not purchase a cell phone for anything like it for my children in the classroom for various reasons:
    1. In elementary school, what would they actually need to do digitally? Make a movie? Do some research? Photo editing? Spreadsheets? Speech to Text technology? There aren’t many more uses of technology that would be useful in the elementary school panel. High school – yes…like some music apps and maybe a CAD app. But not in elementary. And all of these things can be done on a hardwired computer in the classroom or lab.
    2. The small screen is very hard on the eyes – I shudder to think that textbooks will become obsolete and will be replaced by digital. Yes, they don’t have to lug around those texts, but for children who have difficulty reading that ever flickering screen (which, by the way, is supposed to be 26 inches from your eyes…read the manuals!) will be very stressful for them.
    3. I refuse to pay for something else that the school boards shoud pay for.
    4. I already limit screen time for my children…why would I want them to spend more time online at school?
    5. WHY WOULD I INCREASE THE RISK OF MY CHILD GETTING MUGGED / BULLIED ON THE WAY TO SCHOOL BECAUSE HE / SHE CARRIES SEVERAL HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS OF TECHNOLOGY IN THEIR BACKPACK? This ever increasing demand for the use of technology is just making my children targets for the bullies to beat up and take their backpacks / digital contents. I would rather send them to school with a healthy lunch and no technology so I know that they have a better chance of coming home in one piece.
    6. I want my children to learn how to talk face to face with people, how to read non-verbal communication signs. If their head is always buried in technology, they will not develop these skills.
    So, in closing, is there a place in elementary school (K-8) for this technology. Maybe a little room, but not much. This technology is better suited to high school and post-secondary level education.

  • Mcdermid

    I will not send a cell phone or other wireless device to school with my kids, for many of the same reasons described below.

    First and foremost, I am completely against WiFi in the school setting. There are too many red flags about its safety – I will not have my kids being guinea pigs in what is essentially a huge experiment.

    I have always taught my kids not to take their valuables (ipods, cameras, etc) to places where they may get lost or stolen. It is a no-brainer that taking a computer or hand-held to school is just asking for it to get dropped, lost, stolen, vandalized, etc. No way.

    I also agree that kids don’t need to be “plugged in” to learn. I think we have become sickeningly dependent on devices… we need to learn to interact with people, not interface via a hand-held device.

    Computers, and particularly the internet are invaluable, I will agree. But a regular hardwired desktop computer (like I use at home and at work) will do the job just fine. No handhelds needed, no WiFi necessary.

  • Mplant

    What on earth does a Kindergertner need a cell phone in school for? Children that age are barely learning to read, have prroly developed 2-dimensional eyesight, and at this period in their early development, they need to use all FIVE senses to engage in their world, explore, use manipulatives, and SOCIALIZE! What a ridiculous notion! They already are getting their hands on cell phones at home as toddlers, from what I’ve seen! NO they do not need to be immersed and inundated with this radiation technology! Where are people’s senses? Does no one heed warnings that children’s undeveloped skulls give little protection from cell phone radiation? Do people not read the studies – the leading cause of death in the UK right now in children aged 18 and under is BRAIN TUMORS! This is a new phenomena in the last decade, coinciding with the onset of digital technology and cell phone sales world-wide. The connection is glaringly obvious, which is why it is such a hot topic in science research studies today… warning warning WARNING.
    Elementary School Primary Grade Teacher, 23 years experience, specializing in Early Childhood Education

  • L.Linton

    As a parent and science educator, I can see many different sides to this debate. I know that our children are living in an increasingly technological world, and believe that they should be computer and internet savvy. I think that the internet can be a powerful tool to promote learning, research, and communication, and that internet use ON COMPUTERS (laptops/desktops/large tablets) can help students learn. I use a SMARTBoard in my current classroom, and love how I can pull up educational videos, interactive math games (for math review) and other resources to share with the class.

    That said, I am extremely concerned about the ubiquitous use of handheld wireless devices (including phones) and wifi in many of our homes and public spaces, and do not feel that the additional benefits of using them in the school outweigh the negatives. There are health concerns (mentioned above) and concerns about negative impacts on social and physical development. Many young children (and certainly teens) are already “wired” for many of their non-school waking hours – do they really need to be “wired” for a good part of the school day as well?

    As a parent and educator, I want to help young people explore the world with all their senses, and want to see them develop into well-rounded, thinking, feeling adults. There is so much more to education than can be learned through these “magic boxes” , and there is so much more to being human than having ongoing engagement with the digital world.

    Another big concern is the use of texting and other online communication to bully and harass other students. This is happening already, during non-school hours. How, exactly, are teachers supposed to keep this from happening during school hours as well? Allowing and even encouraging cell phone use in class could very well create problems that far outweigh the benefits gained.

    I am not convinced that cell phones should even be allowed, much less used regularly in the classroom. We already have other ways to integrate technology and bring the information highway into our classrooms without the drawbacks of using cell phones.

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