Government Probes Smartphone Disruption In Classrooms

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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A review is to focus on how teachers can handle the potential disruption of mobile devices in class

The government has commissioned a review that is to focus on the potentially disruptive influence of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets in classrooms, and how teachers can approach this problem.

The review, which is intended to help teachers improve their classroom-management skills, comes as many schools are introducing devices such as tablets into classrooms, even as some are banning mobile phones and smartphones in an effort to reduce the disruption they are held to cause.

Smartphone ‘distraction’

School - Shutterstock: © ZurijetaTom Bennett, who is to lead the investigation, said he would seek to dig beneath the surface of the issue, acknowledging both the potential of technology to “transform” classrooms and the “distraction” smartphones can pose to students.

“This is a 21st-century problem and the majority of schools are dealing with it effectively,” he said in announcing the review. “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 separate blog post, Bennett, a teacher and behaviour expert who is the head of the researchEd project, said he didn’t think schools should either ban mobile phones or reject tablets from classes.

In England, about one-third of schools ban mobiles, while another fifth limit their use in classrooms.

21st-century schools

Schools minister Nick Gibb said the expansion of the review to include the influence of mobile technology was intended to make the advice given to schools “fit for the 21st century”.

“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,” he stated.

The DfE said technology can have a helpful influence in the classroom, but said the probe was intended to respond to reports of its misuse.

“Teachers… have reported that the growing number of children bringing personal devices into class is hindering teaching and leading to disruption,” the DFE said in a statement.

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