Francophone schools in Manitoba banning cell phones in classrooms

Manitoba’s Francophone schools are banning the use of cell phones in the classroom to minimize distractions and reduce screen time for students.

The principal at College Louis Riel in Winnipeg says this model was a success for students and staff last year and is pleased it’s being expanded.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Remi Lemoine, Principal of College Louis Riel.

Up until this school year, teachers had their own rules for cellphone use in the classroom, but now, La Division scolaire franco-manitobaine (DSFM) is implementing a broader ban.

“There’s an increase in the number of students having cell phones and any technology devices, bringing them to school. We noticed there was a lot of distraction happening in the classroom,” said Alain Laberge, Superintendent of La DSFM.

Laberge says starting in October, K-8 students will not be allowed to bring phones to school and those in grades 9-12 are being told to put their devices away unless it is lunchtime.

“What we are noticing is it is harder for students to follow and then after that, they just fall behind, and when they fall behind, it becomes too late,” said Laberge.

Lemoine says they implemented the rule last year, and while it continues to be a work in progress, it’s worth the effort.

“For me, to other schools, ‘hey implement it.’ Make sure you talk to the teachers to be on the same wavelength, and if everyone does their job in the classroom, it will work,” said Lemoine.

Grade 10 student Denis Pasieka is in favour of keeping phones out of class.

“It seems to distract them a lot, and nobody is paying attention to the teacher, and I find that the kids start talking to each other about topics on their phones and they are not actually learning anything,” said Pasieka.

Grade 12 student Mike Pasieka believes with the phones away, the quality of schoolwork and discussion in class will improve. “I’ve had cellphones in class before, I have experienced that, and I know it can be a distraction. Personally, it’s never bothered me.”

This decision follows Quebec’s lead as they plan to ban cell phones in the classroom province-wide.

Dr. Sachin Maharaj from the University of Ottawa says students are spending upwards of 3-5 hours a day scrolling through their phones, limiting learning time, and having an impact on mental health.

“That seems, for a number of different reasons, to be taking a toll on their mental health, and so that is part of the reason schools are also looking to restrict phones, because we’re increasingly concerned, not just about academic achievement, but social and emotional well-being as well,” explained Dr. Maharaj.

The division says there are some exceptions, like anything medical related, and parents can call the school office if there is an emergency.

Teachers are also being encouraged to minimize their cell phone use during the school day.

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