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Cell Phones In Classrooms Are So Distracting, U.S. Teacher Shows In Viral Experiment

Kids get a LOT of notifications.

As Ontario is set to announce it will ban cell phones in classrooms, the staggering results of a teacher's experiment are showing people everywhere just how important that move is for learning.

The U.S. teacher — identified in media reports as Mary Garza — reportedly asked her students to turn their phones up loud, and to make a mark on a tally board every time they got a notification. In a single period, that one class got more than 1,100 notifications (we stopped hand-counting the tally at 1,100, but there were many more than that!).

Text messages were the clear winner in the teacher's tally — with more than 300 of those rolling in during a single class — followed by Instagram and e-mail. But even old-fashioned phone calls (the least popular category) made it into the tally 32 times. That's 32 phone calls. In. A. Single. Class.

The U.S. teacher's experiment went viral after Joe Becigneul, a trustee at Greater St. Alberta Catholic Schools in Alberta, shared it on Facebook earlier in March. Since then, his post has been shared more than 134,000 times.

"This was one class, one period. Every one of these tally marks is an interruption in a student's education," Becigneul wrote in the post.

"Cell phones can be toxic to a learning environment."

Ontario will ban cell phones in classrooms

The Ontario government will this week announce its cellphone classroom ban, to begin in the next school year, the Canadian Press reported today.

Some schools already have similar policies, but the province will issue a directive to all public schools for the 2019-20 school year. It would prohibit cellphone use during instructional time.

Enforcement of the ban would be up to individual boards and schools.

"When the school day starts, the phones go off," one senior government source said. "It's about recognizing that a school is a learning environment."

WATCH: How one school went completely phone-free. Story continues below.

Cell phone distraction in classrooms is linked to lower grades in a 2017 study published in the journal Educational Psychology. In that study, college students were permitted to use electronic devices, including cell phones, during half of the lectures in a course. Using the devices in class affected the students' long-term retention of the lecture, and their subsequent unit and final exam scores, researchers noted.

Bans on mobile phones significantly increases student performance in high-stakes exams, according to a 2015 London School of Economics and Political Science paper.

More posts about similar experiments have been popping up, including one shared by a public school Facebook page in Hillsborough County, Fla.

That tally showed 268 distractions in a 30-minute class.

"Parents PLEASE find a way to block students' access to these disruptions during the school day," the post said.

With files from the Canadian Press

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