Mobile phones in schools: Is a total ban the way forward?
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The general consensus within the head teacher community is that it does not appreciate the edict from on high how to run a school. However, last week's statement by Education Secretary Damian Hinds, announcing that the government would not support the total band of all mobile phones in school, may well have been one sure edict that those in the teaching profession would have welcomed. As a secondary school teacher for almost 20 years, I have seen the impact, both positive and negative, that mobile phones have had in our classroom. Occasionally phones are an amazing resource when utilised to look up or record information, but more often than not they will be used for Snapchatting in class. A cry of 'Miss, my mum's on the phone' in the middle of a lesson is not unusual, and an alarming amount of sexting can go on at break time. Even a gentle vibrate is a distraction, and every secondary school teacher has had to 'deal' with a student and their mobile phone. Most schools already have policies regarding where and when mobile phones can be used, many allowing break time usage as well as usage in class for 'work purposes'. However, the Michaela Community School, dubbed the strictest school in the UK, is one of a growing number to have adopted a zero-tolerance approach to mobile phones on school premises. Students can expect their phones to be confiscated for several weeks. Other schools will confiscate a phone if it is becoming a 'nuisance'. The decision is down to individual teachers - but each teacher's idea of a 'nuisance' will differ, which may well create confrontation and confusion. So what is the best approach?
There is growing evidence that the internet and digital gadgets are making it harder for students to concentrate. The Pew Research Centre conducted a national survey of teachers, with 87% stating that modern technologies were creating an "easily distracted generation with short attention spans." Teens are undoubtedly capable of long periods of concentration, but those who spend a lot of time alone using technology tend to have less in the way of communication skills, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence.
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