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Limiting distractions in Alberta’s classrooms

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To safeguard student mental health and reduce distractions, new standards will limit the use of personal mobile devices in classrooms and social media on school networks.

Personal mobile devices and social media are becoming more present in all aspects of life and Alberta’s classrooms are no exception. While these can be useful tools to support learning, feedback from more than 68,000 parents, teachers, education partners and students, identified that personal mobile devices and social media can negatively impact student achievement and mental well-being.

Based on that feedback, Alberta’s government is establishing standards that will be implemented by September 1 to ensure personal mobile devices and social media do not disrupt learning.  

“Parents, teachers, students and our education partners were clear that the use of personal mobile devices and social media in the classroom was of concern. We’re taking a measured approach to protect students by restricting the use of personal mobile devices during instructional time to reduce distractions and bullying, maximize learning time and support student mental health.”

Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Education

The new standards on personal mobile devices will establish restrictions, enforcement procedures and exceptions for Alberta’s K-12 public, separate, francophone, public charter, independent school authorities and early childhood services operators.  Exceptions will be made provincewide for students using mobile devices for health and medical needs, to support specialized learning needs and for educational purposes.

 “The College of Alberta School Superintendents supports Alberta’s initiative to promote the safety and well-being of students by setting standards regarding the use of personal mobile devices and social media at school. Respecting the flexibility of school authorities to meet the unique learning needs of students within a regulatory framework is practical and greatly appreciated.”

Dr. Andrea Holowka, president, College of Alberta School Superintendents

“The ATA is pleased to see that the government’s direction reflects ATA policy in keeping students focused on their learning while balancing situations when technology can be used to meet medical and learning needs or outcomes. Teachers and school leaders look forward to having the support of government and school boards as they implement this new policy.”

Jason Schilling, president, Alberta Teachers Association

“Prioritizing student learning and mental health is vital to education stakeholders. Standards for mobile device use during instructional time, which acknowledge exceptions and school authority autonomy, will ensure a focus on learning. ASCA encourages school authorities to consult with school councils and parent communities when developing or refining implementation policies.”

Kerry Bodell, president, Alberta School Councils Association

“I am pleased to see Alberta’s government move forward with limitations to the use of personal mobile devices and social media in schools. Research is showing us ways that they can negatively influence student success and mental health. This initiative will support schools in addressing those areas of concern and help our students get the most out of their education.”

Dr. Michael Boyes, developmental psychologist, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary

School authorities will implement locally developed policies and procedures for the use of personal mobile devices and social media in their schools. These policies and procedures must reflect provincial standards but will still allow areas of autonomy and flexibility to meet the unique needs of the communities and students they serve.

School authorities will share details on their policies and rules with parents and guardians over the coming weeks and months.

“We are pleased to see the government take measures to address the issues of technology use in the classroom. There are appropriate uses for technology in schools; however, there are also a variety of negatives that come with it. This is why our Board has a policy to require all of our schools to have a plan for the safe and effective use of a personal communication device while at school.”

Irene Gibbons, board chair, Sturgeon School Division  

“AISCA welcomes the focus on student mental health and reducing distractions in classrooms. We look forward to collaborating with the government for a smooth implementation of the new standards.”

Abraham Abougouche, board president, Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta

Quick facts

  • Alberta school authorities currently have the autonomy to set their own policy on how students use cellphones in schools. Policies vary widely across the province.
  • In recent years, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have all announced provincewide restrictions or bans on cellphone use in schools, with certain exceptions in place.
  • Alberta Education engaged with students, parents and education partners.
    • A survey for parents and school stakeholders received more than 68,000 responses. Almost 90 per cent of respondents shared concern over student cellphone use at school.
    • Diverse education stakeholders took part in two virtual engagement sessions.

Related information

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