Several educational institutions worldwide are implementing restrictions on mobile devices due to concerns like cyberbullying, academic dishonesty, and classroom disruptions. In July 2018, the French government even enacted a law forbidding the use of smartphones in schools.
However, are there any advantages to allowing phones in classrooms? Can we leverage the available technology to enhance students’ learning?
Let’s delve into this debate, examining both sides of the argument, as well as the perspectives of teachers, parents, and students. We’ll also provide recommendations on how to prevent the inappropriate utilization of smartphones in your classroom.
“Yes, mobile phones should be banned in schools…”
They are a source of distraction in class
“…not having a strict policy on mobile phone usage during the day tempts students to engage in activities like chatting on WhatsApp or browsing Instagram during lessons.”
According to a 2017 study, over 90% of students employ technology in class for purposes unrelated to their academic work. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that teachers often find themselves competing for their students’ attention.
Geography teacher Olivia Hunt from the British School of Barcelona supports the ban. She explains, “Without a strict policy on mobile phone usage during the day, students are tempted to engage in activities like chatting on WhatsApp or browsing Instagram during lessons.”
Mobile devices impede productivity
Research conducted by the London School of Economics reveals that implementing a ban on mobile phones in schools has a positive impact on test scores. The study surveyed schools in four cities in England and found that student performance in high-stakes exams significantly improved.
Allowing phones contributes to bullying
“By banning mobile phones, we observe a decrease in online bullying and peer-to-peer mistreatment.”
Prior to the prevalence of mobile phones and internet connectivity, bullying was limited to face-to-face physical and verbal abuse. Nowadays, cyberbullying permeates into students’ safe spaces at home. In addition, students can anonymously target their peers and teachers by capturing photos and videos of them.
Olivia remarks, “It’s crucial that students refrain from using their phones in school, not only because of the distraction in class but also due to issues like students filming and taking pictures of one another and the teachers. By implementing a ban on mobile phones, we observe a decrease in online bullying and peer-to-peer mistreatment.”
Mobile devices also bring up concerns regarding privacy, safety, and online etiquette. These include issues like theft on school grounds, sharing inappropriate content, and the potential for blackmail.
‘Mobile phone addiction’ leads to mental health problems
“School provides a much-needed eight-hour break from their mobile phones.”
Some studies suggest a possible correlation between ‘mobile phone addiction’ and negative psychological effects such as sleep deprivation, anxiety, stress, and depression. Prohibiting mobile devices can help mitigate these risks.
As Olivia points out, in an increasingly digital world, “school provides a much-needed eight-hour break from their mobile phones.”
“No, mobile phones should be allowed in schools…”
They can be used to enhance learning
“By granting increased access to learning resources, tools, and information, students become even more engaged in a subject.”
One study conducted in the UK argues that since students already use their mobile phones in school, why not leverage them to enrich the learning experience? The study highlights that students find it both convenient and helpful to have phones in class, using them for various activities such as research, organization, and maintaining calendars.
Technology often yields positive outcomes. In the book “Teaching in a Digital Age,” it is noted that through technology, students become “even more engaged in a subject. They can direct their own learning.”
Classroom tools that necessitate student interaction with their mobile phones are also popular among teachers and students. Favorite apps include Kahoot, Quizlet, Ed Puzzle, and Mentimeter, to name a few.
We are preparing them for life after school
“They must utilize apps in the classroom as part of the educational process… essentially, replicating what successful businesses do.”
Peter Freeth, a parent of teenage daughters, spoke to the BBC and advocated for schools incorporating mobile phones into the classroom to help students prepare for their future work environments.
He emphasized, “Schools expect children to complete their homework on computers. They must utilize apps in the classroom as part of the educational process, enabling them to watch videos, stream content, log attendance, and participate in study groups. Essentially, replicating what successful businesses do.”
Providing a ‘tech break’ can benefit students
A recent study on ‘off-task’ activity involving phones in classrooms found that some students consider brief distractions as useful for regaining focus for the rest of the lesson.
Elena Neiterman, one of the study’s authors, states, “Students feel that it would be helpful for them to spend a couple of minutes doing their own thing and then return to the class.”
Strategies to prevent improper mobile phone usage in class
School policies on mobile device usage vary across countries and institutions. Some have implemented complete bans, while others adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” approach. If your school lacks a strict policy, here are some tips to regulate mobile phone usage:
Create a class agreement: Utilize class agreements to establish boundaries for mobile phone usage early on, which proves useful later.
Implement a traffic light system: Use a green sign on the classroom door to indicate that students should place their phones face up on their desks, ready for use. A yellow sign signifies that phones must be faced down and not used until instructed. A red sign indicates that phones are unnecessary and should be kept in bags.
Collect phones at the beginning of the school day: Some schools opt to collect phones upon arrival and return them at the end of the day, permitting students to contact their parents before and after school if needed.
Restrict WiFi access: Teacher Michelle Dooley from Ireland mentions that in her school, “WiFi is blocked for students. If I want to use mobile phones in class that require internet access, I can request the IT department to unblock it.”
Educate students about multitasking: Educating students on the detrimental effects of multitasking can discourage them from using their mobile devices.
Invite experts to discuss internet safety: Collaborate with your school to organize workshops featuring law enforcement officials and mental health experts to address issues of theft, safety, and privacy.
Provide students with a designated tech break: If you wish to utilize mobile phones in class but are concerned about students constantly checking their notifications, incorporate a designated tech break halfway through the class. Allow students 60 seconds to check if they’ve missed anything important before resuming their work.
What’s your stance on the mobile phone debate? Are smartphones allowed at your school? Do you have any additional suggestions for preventing misuse? Share your thoughts in the comments.
- Bolkan, S. Griffin, D.J. (2018) ‘Catch and hold: instructional interventions and their differential impact on student interest, attention, and autonomous motivation.’
- Beland, Louis-Philippe & Murphy, Richard, 2016. ‘Ill Communication: Technology, distraction & student performance.’
- Neiterman, E. & Zaza, C. (2019). ‘A Mixed Blessing? Students’ and Instructors’ Perspectives about Off-Task Technology Use in the Academic Classroom.’ The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
- Bates, A.W. (2015) ‘Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for Designing Teaching and Learning’ Vancouver BC
- Walker, R. (2013). ‘I don’t think I would be where I am right now’. Pupil perspectives on using mobile devices for learning. Research in Learning Technology
- Thomée, S. (2018) ‘Mobile Phone Use and Mental Health. A Review of the Research That Takes a Psychological Perspective on Exposure’