It has long been said that mobile phones in the classroom have a disruptive and negative effect on a student’s learning and focus. The once sworn enemy of teachers had no place in the classroom, but times are changing. Mobile phones are now being used in innovative and creative ways to engage, support and stimulate students’ learning in academic settings.
In the U.S. 69% of children have a phone by age 12, and in the UK 96% of 16-24 own a mobile phone. These whopping numbers have meant that teachers have had to rethink their strategies, start to incorporate mobiles into teaching methods and use them to the benefit of everyone. The idea of using mobiles habitually in the classroom is controversial with many on either side of the argument. However, one thing for certain is that mobiles aren’t going anywhere and teachers’ need to understand how they can be leveraged as an educational tool.
More often than not, schools and universities have extremely tight budgets and cannot afford technology or to buy tablets to distribute throughout the class. As many students already own mobile phones it is an easy way for them to access a wide range of information and knowledge at their fingertips. It also saves the school a lot of money and extra resources which they do not have.
It is always an effective way to help all students learn to the best of their ability. Font sizes can be changed on their phones, students can take pictures or record their work to revisit and help with studying later or use software such as Mentimeter to do class quizzes and fun interactive and engaging sessions.
Students often switch off when they are lectured to and get bored with standard teaching practices. The recurring battle to tell students to put their phones away and focus is tiresome for both the teacher and the student. Using Mentimeter, gives students the option to use their beloved mobiles to access a presentation, answer and ask questions and join in in brainstorming sessions to name a few examples. What is the result? Increased engagement, more contributions even from quiet students and less fear of getting the answer wrong, enabling a more open, honest and creative learning environment.
Regardless of whether we like it or not mobile phones play an extensive role in our lives. A child’s school life and their education are predominantly focused around teachers preparing them for future life after studies and their careers. With mobile phones an integral part of the world, teaching them how to use a mobile phone and in particular, when it is suitable to do so is a very important part of learning. Students and children, need to learn to self-regulate their mobile phones usage and if teachers ban them, they aren’t being given that opportunity. Moreover, being taught how to safely navigate online environments and to be aware of and avoid the dangers of the internet is a crucial element of a child’s education that must be addressed during school years.
Banning mobile phones is not the solution to mobile phones in classrooms saga. Instead, it is important to educate students to live and grow up in this digital era. Digital literacy is a huge part of a young person’s education. According to research mobile phones are so important to support such learning.
Nowadays, a fruitful education is knowing how to use technology to your advantage, to learn, produce work and communicate effectively. There has been compelling research supporting the idea that technology promotes new learning opportunities and the opportunity for students to develop skills that they will need in working life. A student’s capability to copy from the whiteboard is outdated and most definitely not a skill that prospecting employers will look for. Rather, using phones for research, investigating and collecting data, getting feedback, communicating and creating is much more valuable life skills.
When students utilize their phones for collecting information and research, they understand the sheer power they hold in their hands and the amount of knowledge they have at their fingertips which they can learn from. Teaching students how education can be obtained from home when doing homework and assignments via their phones keeps them in their modern world whilst learning at the same time.
Technology and mobile phones are here to stay. Rather than fighting the losing battle and lecturing students about the negative aspects of such devices (with little impact), it is schools and universities responsibility to show the positive aspects and how these devices can be used for the better. Regardless of whether teachers allow them in the classroom, students will continue to use them outside, in further education and professional workplaces, so stop fighting the losing battle and embrace how mobile phones can be used for everyone’s advantage.