Heads urged to lift ban on mobiles in class

   
   
A child using smartphone technology
05 Apr 2011 17:30:38.827
PA 113/11

The Government is wrong to try to restrict the use of mobile phones in class, says a leading academic who warns that doing so will lead to UK schools failing children.

Professor Mike Sharples at The University of Nottingham says new ‘smartphones’ are tools for learning that should have a place in every classroom, particularly at a time when schools have to slash their IT budgets. He argues that proposed Government guidelines have been too focused on the negative aspects of mobile phones rather than embracing the benefits they offer.

His comments are in response to reports that the government is proposing to ban mobile phones from classrooms to reduce cyber bullying, game playing, online chat and searching for inappropriate content.
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 Professor Sharples, Director of the University's Learning Sciences Research Institute, has studied how children learn with new technology and believes that mobile phones can help children become more powerful and creative learners.

Allowing children to bring their own devices into class will also reduce spending on computers in schools, he says.

“It makes no sense for schools to pay for rooms full of desktop machines when children have more powerful computers in their pockets,” said Professor Sharples. “The new smartphones are scientific instruments, with built-in e-book readers, cameras, voice recorders, timers, web browsers, accelerometers, position locators and tilt sensors. Children can use them for research, creativity and project work. Instead of banning mobile phones, schools should be training children in how to use them properly.”

In a study by his institute, five schools allowed 14 to 16-year-old children to use their mobile phones in class. They found that children used them for producing movies in English classes, listening to foreign language podcasts, photographing whiteboards for revision, recording a teacher reading a poem, and photographing and timing science experiments for reports.

One teacher commented: “Suddenly there’s a calculation, for example, and we’ve got a full set of calculators that are there and able to use. If we think we’re going to go outside and do an experiment and we need to record it, use a stopwatch, we’ve got a full set of stopwatches and they’re there, they’re easy to use.”

In a separate study the team surveyed more than 2,500 children aged 13 to 14 and found that one-third had already used their mobile phones in class for school work, despite these being banned.

Another project, with the Open University, used mobile devices for science learning outside the classroom. The children involved in nQuire, which finished in February, took photos of their meals and calculated whether they were healthy. They also measured wind speed and sunlight around the school playground.

Professor Richard Noss, director of the £12m Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme, which funded nQuire, said: “The project gives children and their teachers tools to do what used to be impossible: to deal with complex and real situations scientifically, in ways that are engaging, exciting and rigorous.

“Children — and the UK as a whole — stand to lose out if we are not open-minded about the potential of technology to improve education. MPs argue about giving teachers the right to search a pupil’s phone content when they should be debating how to ensure every child has a smartphone.”

Professor Sharples added: “Schools used to stop children using ballpoint pens because they were said to damage handwriting and banned pocket calculators to prevent them from taking short cuts in arithmetic. We have moved on from there to recognise that children need powerful tools for learning. Mobile phones can connect school and homework. Now is the time to educate children in best use of smartphones.”

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall. The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia. More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall. The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia. More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Mike Sharples, on +44 (0)115 846 7930, mike.sharples@nottingham.ac.uk

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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Published Date
Wednesday 2nd March 2011

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