Sunday, September 13, 2015
Mobile phones' impact on lessons coming under scrutiny
The impact of mobile phones on pupils’ behaviour in lessons is to be investigated as part of a wider inquiry aimed at improving teachers’ classroom management.
Tom Bennett, a teacher and behaviour expert, is leading a government-commissioned review into how to improve training to better equip new teachers for tackling poor behaviour in the classroom. And the Department for Education has asked him to focus on the potentially disruptive influence of smartphones on learning in school.
A third of schools across England already ban mobiles, claiming they distract and lead to low-level disruption in the classroom, with a further fifth limiting their use in classrooms.
At Kirbky high school, in Knowsley, near Liverpool, mobiles are confiscated if spotted by teachers, put into the school safe and parents are called to collect it at the end of the day. Ebbsfleet academy in Kent claims GCSE results have almost doubled since the school banned smartphones in 2013.
The chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has frequently highlighted the damage that low-level classroom disruption can cause to learning. Last week, he told LBC there was no room for mobiles in classrooms.
The crackdown, however, comes as schools – including many primaries – are increasingly introducing expensive new technology such as iPads to aid learning.
Bennett was quoted in the Sunday Times (paywall) last month saying the widespread adoption of tablets was having unhelpful effects in some schools, with pupils misusing them “to surf the net, find photos of Kim Kardashian and Jessie J and hurl online insults at each other”.
According to the DfE, appropriately used technology – including tablets and smart phones – can enhance the educational experience of pupils. “Teachers, however, have reported that the growing number of children bringing personal devices into class is hindering teaching and leading to disruption,” a spokesperson said.
A study by the London School of Economics in May found that banning mobile phones from classrooms could benefit students’ learning by as much as an extra week of classes over an academic year, benefiting low-achieving children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds most.
Announcing the investigation into mobiles in class, schools minister Nick Gibb said: “Since 2010 we have given teachers more power to ensure good behaviour in the classroom. But we need to make sure the advice we give to schools and the approaches being used across the country are fit for the 21st century when even primary school pupils may be bringing in phones or tablets.
“That is why we have taken the decision to expand Tom Bennett’s review to look at how teachers can tackle bad behaviour.
“Whether it is the use of mobile phones in schools or the attitudes of parents to their child’s behaviour in class, we will now probe deeper into behaviour more generally to ensure that no child has to put up with having their education disrupted by misbehaviour.”
Bennett, who is director of the researchEd project, said: “Technology is transforming society and even classrooms – but all too often we hear of lessons being disrupted by the temptation of the smartphone. Learning is hard work and children are all too aware of this. So when they have a smartphone in their pocket that offers instant entertainment and reward, they can be easily distracted from their work.
“This is a 21st-century problem and the majority of schools are dealing with it effectively. But I will now probe deeper into this issue, and behaviour challenges more broadly, to uncover the real extent of the problem and see what we can do to ensure all children focus on their learning.”
In a blog for the TES, Bennett poured cold water on headlines suggesting mobiles could be barred altogether in class. “This may shock you, but I don’t think mobile phones should be banned from school. Or iPads from the classroom,” he wrote.
“I’ve been given a fantastic opportunity to look at how we can improve ITT with reference to behaviour-management training. I think it’s a long time coming, and I’m delighted we’re finally talking about it explicitly, rather than pretending it isn’t an issue.”