- The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) [SAC]
- The Bill of Rights, Chapter2, Act No. 108 of 1996 [BoR]
- The South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 [SASA]
- Guidelines for the consideration of Governing Bodies in adopting a Code of Conduct for Learners (Published under General Notice 776 in Government Gazette 18900 of 15 May 1998) [NG SGB CC]
Firstly, there is no national policy on cell phones in schools.
Secondly, it must be noted that this manual can only provide a draft generic cell phone policy framework for schools within which each school can develop its own policy. Each school is unique and therefore each school governing body (SGB) needs to develop its own cell phone policy, as this cell phone policy must be linked to the school’s own individual Code of Conduct for learners. The Code of Conduct is developed by management in or after consultation with the teachers, parents and learners.
What follows are only guidelines for schools to develop their own policies.
- General rules regarding cell phones:
- Cell phones with cameras and/or audio recording capabilities are not allowed on the school premises;
- No IPODS, MP3-players or similar electronic devices may be brought to school;
- Cell phones should be carried on the person of the owner and not carried in school bags;
- Cell phones will not be lent or borrowed;
- Parent responsibilities:
- Parents are strongly urged not to allow their children to bring cell phones to school.
- Children should only be allowed to bring a cell phone to school, if this is an essential communication tool, to be used after school hours as a means of communication between the children and their parents / guardian. If a parent insists that a learner should carry a cell phone on the school premises, the cell phone will be accompanied by a letter from the parent to indemnify the school against loss of or damage to the phone.
- The parent will co-sign the school’s Code of Conduct which includes the school’s regulations/policy on the use of cell phones on the school premises.
- Learner responsibilities:
- A learner will not be allowed to carry more than one cell phone or more than one SIM card on the school premises.
- Cell phones will be switched off during and between lessons.
- Cell phones will not be used to:
- Disrupt a lesson by sending SMSs, playing games or any other disruptive actions;
- Receive or distribute pornographic material;
- Send or distribute insulting, hateful or degrading messages to other learners or people;
- Communicate with fellow learners during the course of lessons by means of SMSs or any other means;
- Communicate with family members during the course of lessons without the consent of the educator;
- Store academic material for use during tests or examinations.
- The confiscation period of a cell phone is one term or the equivalent of one term;
- The educator, who confiscated a cell phone, will hand it over to the secretary. The secretary will enter the details of the confiscated phone in a register and a receipt will be issued to the owner. The parents of the owner will be notified.
- Confiscated phones will be locked away in the schools safe.
- Any cell phone that rings / beeps, is used for any purpose whatsoever, is handled / played with or displayed during school hours, will be confiscated for the duration of a term (or the equivalent length of time). The SIM card will also be retained for the duration of the confiscation period.
The school will not be held responsible for theft, damage to or misuse of cell phones on the school premises.
(With acknowledgement to Kobus van Wyk’s website, e4Africa. For more tips and other useful information on technology in the classroom, visit Kobus van Wyk’s website)
- The cell phone in the classroom
- When the use of cell phones in the classroom becomes a problem – because its use is viewed as distracting to learners – some schools ban its use altogether. You can imagine how learners resist this restriction.
- Most learners in schools – even the poorest ones – have cell phones in their pockets or bags. Efforts to curb the explosive use of these devices are bound to be countered with learner schemes to use them in an illicit way.
- Isn’t there a better way to handle the situation?
How about using the fascination of learners with their cell phones to improve learning? This can be done if innovative ways are found to harness the phones in the hands of learners as teaching and learning tools. This approach has many apparent advantages:
- Learners already own cell phones – you do not have to buy technology devices for them.
- You don’t have to introduce technology into the classroom – it is already there.
- Since the instruments are the property of learners, you don’t have to protect equipment against vandalism.
- Children love their cell phones and are keen to show off what they can do with them.
- Pilot projects are under way to determine practical applications of mobile phones in the classroom. A few simple uses are already evident:
- By sending an interesting text message (SMS) in a target language to learners on a regular basis (even after school hours) their literacy is enhanced. Imagine how you could build the vocabulary of your class.
- Mobile ‘novels’ are already available where learners receive bite size instalments.
- When learners use the camera function of cell phones, they can record images of science experiments, or other visual displays, for future revision.
- Some vendors of educational software are developing programs suitable for classroom use. With a cell phone a learner can see and hear, without disturbing the rest of the class.
- The ubiquitous use of cell phones makes them ideal tools for teaching and learning. Keep your eyes – and minds – open for developments in this area in the future.
- Why must teachers move towards digital inclusion?
The opposite of the digital divide is digital inclusion. You are digitally included when you have access to digital resources and have learned how to use them – you have crossed the divide and are reaping the benefits of access to the digital world.
- Teachers, are you digitally included?
You should be! Teachers play a critical role in helping learners to move towards digital inclusion. But teachers must hurry up – learners are overtaking them. Many learners have cell phones in their pockets. They seldom use these devices to make calls – they don’t have money to do so. They mainly use them to send text messages and pictures – in digital format – to their friends.
- Where does this leave the teacher?
- A cell phone used to send and retrieve digital information is a digital device. Learners using such devices are digitally connected – they have achieved a measure of digital inclusion and are no longer on the wrong side of the digital divide.
- Children are mostly using technology for entertainment. Those who have their own computers, or have access to them at home, use them to play games; they download music videos and movies; and they interact with their friends on Facebook. When their digital inclusion is through cell phones, they use these devices for social networking. It is debatable how much learning takes place in this way. For meaningful and directed learning to happen, they need guidance – guidance that only their teachers can give them.
- Sadly, some teachers have not yet made the transition to become digitally included – they are left behind, while the learners are surging ahead. Learners need guidance, but how can they be guided if their guides have been left behind?
- The role of teachers is an important one. You have to guide them so that their tools of choice – computers and cell phones – are used gainfully as learning aids. In this way they will build skills required for prospering in the twenty-first century.
(Another very useful website for Science and Technology educators is www.saasta.ac.za. The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) aims to advance public awareness, appreciation and engagement of science, engineering and technology in South Africa. SAASTA is business Unit of the National Research Foundation.)