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Before the advent of iPhones and Android devices, smartphones in the classroom warranted no heated debates. Mobile devices simply had no place in learning and had to be left at home. In today’s world, a smartphone is essentially a compact supercomputer that has the potential to enrich any student’s learning experience. But as with most technological inventions, these handheld devices can be a double-edged sword, leaving the school system questioning their role in academia.

Is banning mobile devices the answer?

9 out of every 10 teens in the UK own a mobile device. The findings of the Education Policy Institute last year showed that the stats outrank almost all OECD countries in internet usage aside from Chile. The study also found that most of their time online is spent on social media and entertainment platforms. Mobile Guardian previously mentioned that the number one concern in this sector is the growing problem of distraction and disengagement. And in order to eliminate this concern altogether, countries such as France have already banned the use of smartphones in schools. Although there is no nationwide policy regarding the matter in the UK, schools are using their own discretion to address the problem of productivity. There are policies like confiscating the phones and detention, while some even go as far as replacing on-screen distractions with activities that encourage face-to-face interaction such as board games. However, France and other institutions that have imposed a ban risk losing out on the myriad of advantages these tech gadgets provide as useful learning tools.

Lack of proper integration

The problem with handheld devices isn’t the device per se, but the lack of proper integration to supplement academics. In the US, there are an increasing number of schools participating in the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. The goal is to moderate lessons and educational apps that increase classroom engagement while eliminating the budget for additional tech tools, especially because students already possess their own. Maryville University conducts online physics lessons which can be accessed through mobile in order to provide better visuals and boost students’ understanding. Interactive enhanced graphics is one of the advantages of using educational technology over traditional modes of teaching. They can keep the students more engaged with the topic that they are trying to learn.

Mobile devices offer opportunities to collaborate

The various features of mobile devices also bring more to the table. For instance, a study on NCBI documenting the smart phone usage of Australian students showed that they extensively used their phones for documentation purposes. This can be useful for science students who need to keep images or records of lab work in order to catalogue their progress. They can even use the data to compare each other’s work and for reports to their instructor. Educators can benefit with the use of applications created for easier documentation and to assess student performance. Since social learning is an important aspect of quality education, observation, imitation, and collaboration deepens understanding and reinforces key theories.

The modern classroom

Schools are not isolated chambers immune to the changes of the world around them. It should be part of our training to facilitate technology-enabled classes and adjusting classroom instructions in line with modern times. Failing to do so denies students of practical lessons as simple as learning how to minimise distractions and navigating technology. Incorporating technology in different forms, mobile or otherwise, is part of a teacher’s job to bridge the gap between a student’s life in the academe and the world outside of it.


Guest Author: Janice Barker

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