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School boards want to 'review in detail' Alberta classroom phone ban rules before accessing impact

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The Alberta government is formally banning cellphone use in classrooms, an idea that one post-secondary educator says has support from teachers, parents and research, but what can be expected in local schools will have to wait until organizations can digest the changes.

On Monday, the provincial education ministry announced limits on students' personal electronics use in classrooms, saying it consulted with parents, teachers, education partners and students before introducing them.

Alberta Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides also announced Monday student access to social media will be restricted in schools.

The province says exceptions for health and medical conditions or to support learning will be made.

Sarah Hamilton, an associate education professor at Calgary's Mount Royal University, told CTV News Edmonton on Tuesday it's not just the government pushing for these changes, it's other stakeholders as well, and that research backs up concerns.

"More and more, I think we're seeing that is impacting what's going on in the classrooms, Hamilton said.

"Teachers are concerned about its impact on the learning. Parents are concerned about its impact on learning. We know that there are effects with mental health. There's been some research that has shown those links.

"If we refocus on learning and learners ... it's becoming more accessible. We know there's so much social media out there, and kids are on it younger and younger, and more and more."

Other provinces have already mandated classroom restrictions on phones. Some school boards say they're waiting to see what the details of the province's rules, including Elk Island Public Schools, a rural division east of Edmonton, which told CTV News Edmonton it doesn't "have specifics about implementation to share" until staff receives the ministerial order and has "a chance to review it in detail."

The public and Catholic school boards in Edmonton already have restrictions on students' mobile phone use and say they, too, will review the new government rules to see how they correspond to theirs.

"It appears that much of the content of the standards is already captured in our current practice," says a statement from Edmonton Catholic Schools, while Edmonton Public Schools told CTV News Edmonton it will "go over the details and determine what this announcement means for its schools."

Hamilton says it'll be interesting to see what impact of the phone ban may have on learning.

"I think some of our best feedback is probably going to come from the teachers in the classrooms, who are able to communicate what they are seeing in the classroom," she said.

"Are things going better? Are students more on task and focused? Are they seeing less disruptions?" 

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