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Mobile phones in U.K. schools – a hindrance or help?

We can’t overemphasise enough the usefulness smart phones are in the present day, they help in numerous ways, such as entertainment, navigation, news, communication, education, alarms, reminders and so much more.  However, it is often said that everything that has an advantage has a disadvantage, is there a point when smart phones are a nuisance, distraction, or otherwise have a negative impact in certain circumstances?  In this short blog, we look to explore the use of Smart phones by Students during lesson time in the UK.   It is good, bad, indifferent, or otherwise not yet fully understood or developed?

It’s nothing new to teachers in the UK that students try to disguise that they are working, or engaged in their school work, but are actually texting their friends or playing games on their smart phones.  They hide their smart phones in their textbooks, on their lap under the desk, and some students ignore manners completely and use their smart phone in plain sight for non-school related matters.  Teachers end up telling students repeatedly to put their smart phones down, to the point that most Teachers must feel annoyed and frustrated.  We are hearing that more and more students are ignoring the repeated requests to put their smart phones away – are they suffering an addiction to this still very young technology; OR are teachers, schools and parents not reacting in the appropriate manner.  Some might argue that in-fact Schools and the education system have not reacted fast enough to the ‘incorporation’ of smart phones and technology into the learning process? Smart phones have been developed into most parts of our lives, why not school?

No body needs to be reminded, or informed of the reason we attend school; it is to learn and develop.  But to learn and develop we all have a responsibility to ‘drop distraction’ at the class room door.  More and more Teachers time is spent reminding students to put their phones down, whilst culturally we are developing this technology to be more engaging, easy to access and some would argue that its becoming addictive.  Is the fight to stop students using their smart phones a losing battle?  Should it indeed be a battle worth fighting?  Or are we missing a trick by not investing further in this technology and building the use of smart phones into the education process?

It’s a difficult decision, and when you start to dig deep, its easy to understand why there is a divide in opinion?  Let’s face it, which teacher wouldn’t have wanted to use a single devise to manage all notes, write their papers, research topics, store e-books, create learning schedules, take photos, record lectures and so much more?  The counter argument however is of course is that where there are the means to procrastinate, then procrastination often wins!   Smart phones, whilst incredibly helpful and resourceful, also come with games, messaging platforms and so much more that can unproductively consume a student’s time.  In a free world, Teachers can’t regulate the use of technology, whereas 20, even 10 years ago, lessons were planned, conducted and understood without this problem, or distraction.  Needless to say Teachers and education institutions today have a dilemma! (or is it an opportunity…hmm).

Smart phones used in classrooms today have both a strong risk of being a hindrance and a help.  More work needs to be done by both central government and technology institutions to embrace and utilise technology in way that improves engagement, whilst reducing the potential for procrastination.

Are you a teacher or student in the UK?  What are your thoughts and experiences?  Please share them below.

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