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Student smartphone use should be monitored not banned

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Bandwagons are a great thing and the latest is the anti-smartphones in schools one, but the question is whether we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater; smartphones are an essential part of modern life and children should know how to use them appropriately.

Following news of the NSW review into smartphone use in schools, a leading expert on technology and learning says that student smartphone use needs to be controlled, but a blanket ban is not the best solution.

“In my view, it would be difficult to support students having continuous access to smartphones in class, if their use was not linked to a justifiable learning purpose,” says Garry Falloon, Professor of Digital Learning at Macquarie University.

“It’s hard to contest the fact that for many young people smartphones are an important tool for their social interaction, but they can be highly addictive and very distracting. Effective learning requires concentration and task application – and this does mean Snapchat, Facebook or the like!”

However, Prof Falloon says that apps can be leveraged into education and connectivity is essential for learning; “On the other side of the coin, many apps can greatly support learning across the curriculum, for example in science inquiries where there’s apps available that can help with scientific measurements, or providing simulations of experiences unable to be replicated in conventional classrooms,” he said.

“So I do not think it is simply a matter of ‘blanket banning’ these devices, but rather managing their use. One really effective way I have seen this done in New Zealand is collecting devices before class and handing them back at the end.

“Any use is controlled by the teacher, thereby still enabling the productive benefits as described above. Students and their parents got to know the routine, and there were few issues. Those who broke the rules, had them confiscated for the day – or longer.”


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