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Smartphones Are Dumb In High School Classrooms

Why can't people get the message?

02/11/2016 3:27 PM AEDT | Updated 03/11/2016 9:58 AM AEDT
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Ever tried removing dinner from an emotional crocodile? That's what asking a student to give up their phone is like.

There is a way to improve education outcomes for every single student in every single school and it won't cost the taxpayer anything and nobody has to travel to Finland either. Wait, there's more. Research burdens would be lifted from countless academics saving poor taxpayers even more money and, best of all, teachers could actually teach with less interference and kids would be happier in school. It's a win win win win for everybody.

What is it? Drum roll... Leave smartphones at home. Do not bring them to school, ever. The fact that mobile phones exist is not reason enough to possess one and bring the damn thing to school.

'Smartphone' is the greatest misnomer since we all discovered Panama hats came from Ecuador and that Bombay duck is... a fish. Smartphones are dumb phones in high school classrooms. Smartphones are to education what the Titanic was to a safe ocean crossing; all promise and a miserable ending.

Here are some of the myths associated with mobiles.

They are a safety device.

Wrong. In the infrequent event of a lockdown, using the phone to call parents or others causes unnecessary alarm in loved ones and jams up the school switch, thereby making it less likely that the situation is managed appropriately.

Mum or Dad need to be able to contact me.

What, during class? Get a grip. Since 1848 when Kempsey Public School became the first school to join the NSW system, no student has ever, ever, ever missed a message from a parent. Schools have messenger runners each day to sprint said messages to their intended recipient.

Mobiles are useful for research.

In exactly the same way sheep are useful for teaching about leadership and independent critical thinking -- they're not. Firstly, the screens are too small, kids don't want to use their own data and they rarely connect to school wifi systems.

Mobiles are useful for photographing assignments and timetables.

Wrong again. Given most schools operate an online learning management system such as moodle, Edmodo, google classroom etc., such an argument is like choosing the stationary option when designing a transport plan.

Mobiles in schools become mobiles in classrooms -- on during lessons and interfering with learning activities. As a teacher in a (reasonably) well-to-do school where virtually every student has one, I teach during interference provided by mobiles -- lights, sounds, buzzing, you name it. Ever tried removing dinner from an emotional crocodile? That's what asking a student to give up their phone is like.

The emotional attachment to the phone is real and is very, very hard to redirect -- FOMO is present in every classroom. School leaders struggle with phone management -- and there is no consistent, whole-school approach that works -- but if the kids didn't bring them to school, no problems. Mobiles contribute to shortened attention spans and don't get me started with the cyber-bullying issue!

Technology as a basis for teaching and learning is fantastic, but so-called 'smartphones' in classrooms are damaging the teaching and, more importantly, the learning.

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