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The Department of Education has announced an upcoming investigation into the effect of smartphones in schools. The committee headed by tech expert and ex-teacher Tony Bennett will conduct research into behavioural issues in schools, including the impact of smartphone use.
National newspapers frequently churn out articles warning of the dangers of smartphones and other devices on school pupils' academic achievements. All have one message in common: habitual smartphone use is harmful to teenagers' ability to study and damaging to their exam grades.
Smartphones and Sleep
Research by the University of Hertfordshire has found that smartphones are ruining teenagers' sleep. It stated the blue light emitted from smartphones and electronic tablets causes disruption to normal sleep patterns. Meanwhile a YouGov survey found 91% of 18 to 24-year-olds use smart devices before going to bed. The survey also revealed 28 million people in the country get less than seven hours sleep a night.
Richard Wiseman, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University said: "The results are extremely worrying because getting less than seven hours sleep a night is below the recommended guidelines."
Smartphones in the Classroom
Other research conducted by the London School of Economics, has revealed the detrimental effect that smartphones have on the performance of children aged 14 to 16, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. They found that banning smartphones from the classroom improved results of 16-year-olds by 6.4 per cent and for low-achieving or poorer pupils the improvement doubled.
This revelation led the Daily Mail to declare that smartphones should be made illegal for under-16s. Columnist Sarah Vine came to a seething conclusion on smart devices: "What most horrifies me is the way smart phones take normal, healthy children and turn them into zombies whose principal pre-occupations are not schoolwork, but checking how many ‘likes’ their Instagram picture has amassed, or whether their latest video has amassed sufficient comment."
The researchers’ solution was less drastic, they recommended a ban on mobile phones in schools. This is currently at the discretion of head teachers. This proposal has been advocated in the press as parents are encouraged to ban their children from taking phones to school in order to boost their academic prospects. The report states: “Modern technology is used in the classroom to engage students and improve performance. There are, however, potential drawbacks as well, as they could lead to distractions.”
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Smartphones at Home
More than 90% of UK teenagers own a mobile phone and they are highly unlikely to stop using their phones at home. A survey of 2000 people suggested under-25s check their phones 32 times a day. If these distractions become a constant habit they will could affect additional studying at home, which might mean the difference between achieving an A* and an average C.
Schools give guidance on the amount of time that should be spent on homework - three hours a night and four or five hours a day at the weekend for A-level, according to the Department of Education.
The key is how homework should be done. Subtle background noise is okay but it’s not ‘effective learning’ if you’re also following a TV show or listening to the lyrics of your favourite pop tune. Likewise, if you have access to the internet, are speaking to your friends on IM chat or browsing the latest celeb news every five minutes, then you're not focused.
On the other hand, used appropriately, smartphones can enhance traditional educational methods. Whether used for extra revision in the car, on the way to evening hobbies, on the bus journey back from school, or uprooting to a quieter spot in the house, smartphones enable modern, time-efficient mobile learning. In addition, revision notes and practice questions can be easily stored and accessed without reams of paper and ink.
The British Council has endorsed mobile/smart device learning as a means to improving study skills anytime and anywhere. It believes mobile devices and apps are changing the way we learn. English language teacher Emma Segev won an award for her blog Talk2MeEnglish for learning on the go.
Mobile learning (or m-learning) is the ability to learn anywhere and at any time using a portable electronic device. Segev commented: “I get my students started with small, realistic homework activities. I request they spend just five or ten minutes a day on English. I introduce them to some of the amazing apps available and encourage them to learn in a mobile way. And it works! "
School pupils won’t give up smartphones and devices. Instead of parents attempting to wrench them away, we can apply m-learning to GCSE studies. Rather than a distraction and a disruption, the technology can increase and improve revision to get the best grades possible. We can, by using electronic innovation shrewdly, turn student smartphone 'addictions' into a positive tool to for smart learning.
Smartphone technology can strengthen the overall educational experience of pupils. But the individual student must be motivated to use the smartphone as a means to not only socialise and entertain but as an essential tool for studying.
Interested in giving m-learning a go? Here are some great places to start...
By Jameela Freitas (@JameelaJourno) for ELUCEO