Supporters of banning smart phones in schools have welcomed the recent comments of Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.
Mr Tehan was speaking at an education conference in Perth on Monday when he flagged whether mobile phones should be banned from classrooms as part of a national push to improve students’ results.
“If mobile phones are distracting students in the classroom, then teachers should be empowered to conduct a class without them,” he said.
“There is a time and place for technology in education and surely we can all agree on that.”
Experts on digital technology's effects on education acknowledge that phones do pose challenges, but caution against overzealous bans.
Associate Professor Sarah Howard from the University of Wollongong’s School of Education, is against banning phones in classrooms.
“I see them as just another digital technology but quite a useful one for a number of reasons. To me they are an important part of the classroom,” Professor Howard told the Mercury.
“Mobile phones are another digital technology that students have available to them that can be used in learning. I think that is a good thing.
“They are cheap, they are mobile, they're easy and they are a really flexible device.
“I don’t think they should be banned.”
As part of her research into the use of digital technologies in the classroom, Prof Howard has spoken to a lot of teachers about the use of phones, laptops and tablets in schools.
“A good conversation needs to be had about why we use smart phones and when it is appropriate to use them,” she said.
“Through that we develop in students good skills for making good decisions about technology use.
“When we ban it, we are not allowing [students] to be able to make that decision and limiting them from a really handy, cheap and available piece of technology that supports their learning.”
In late June this year the NSW Government announced a review of the use of smartphones in schools.
The psychologist heading the review, Michael Carr-Gregg said tackling predators and cyber bullying was the review’s priority.
Prof Howard said while she understood these concerns, banning the use of smart phones in schools was not the answer.
She added these days many students took laptops and tablets to school as part of their learning.
“But there is a digital divide of the haves and the have nots. Some students can’t afford to buy laptops and tablets.
“Smartphones are a really cheap alternative and in many cases may be the only device they have in school.”