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Banning mobile phones in classrooms takes education back in time, experts say

Despite Government calls for smartphones to be banned in classrooms, some experts say doing so would take education back “a few years”.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has come out in favour of locking mobile phones away during school hours.

“Classroom time is for learning,” he said.

“Not to be distracted from learning.”

He did concede mobile technology “has its place” as a learning tool, but said “there was no conceivable reason as to why students need to access their personal mobile” at school.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian echoed his view.

“I don’t think they have any place in the classroom,” she said.

“That would be akin to us, in the good old days, having a cassette recorder or something else sitting on the table and I think the classroom is for learning.”

But Dr Joanne Orlando, an expert on children and technology with the University of Western Sydney, disagreed.

“A blanket statement like that takes us a few years back from all the work we are doing in education and training,” she said.

“There are so many new ways that mobile devices can add to the classroom.”

Mobile phones can help schools promote STEM

It is up to individual schools as to how, or if, they allow access to smartphones during school hours.

Some make students hand them in at the start of the school day, whereas others have relaxed rules.

Many schools implement a BYOD policy — Bring Your Own Device.

As part of that, a smartphone is used in a range of ways; as a search engine, to take pictures of work and for quizzes.

NSW Secondary Principals’ Council president Chris Presland said removing phones from schools was not something “that advantages students educationally”.

“We talk about trying to stimulate STEM education in our schools — science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he said.

“And at the same time it seems quite bizarre that we’re talking about banning the most obvious forms of technology at our disposal.”

He said there was an “issue” of cyber-bullying via a smartphone, but banning it “actually diminishes the capacity to use it in a positive way”.

“We can’t let fear control everything we do in the classroom,” Dr Orlando said.

“So it’s about the students and the teachers and the school community understanding how to approach educating students around cyber-safety.

“And then also finding that nice balance where they use technology safely, but in a way that actually enhances their learning in the classroom.”

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