Mobile phones and iPads hamper learning !! – In defence of Technology in Education

“Whats the point of using technology it detracts from learning ” a teacher said to me. All the evidence points against it and the government are going to ban them anyway.

Deep sigh – where has this come from?

“Mobile phones and iPads could be banned from classrooms”

screams the Telegraph citing Tom Bennett

Mr Bennett said: “Technology is transforming society and even classrooms – but all too often we hear of lessons being disrupted by the temptation of the smartphone. Learning is hard-work and children are all too aware of this. So when they have a smartphone in their pocket that offers instant entertainment and reward, they can be easily distracted from their work. The Telegraph omitted the following that the Guardian included:

In a blog for the TES, Bennett poured cold water on headlines suggesting mobiles could be barred altogether in class. “This may shock you, but I don’t think mobile phones should be banned from school. Or iPads from the classroom,” he wrote.

Then there is the LSE report : A study by the London School of Economics in May found that banning mobile phones from classrooms could benefit students’ learning by as much as an extra week of classes over an academic year, benefiting low-achieving children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds most. 

I am a huge advocate of using technology in lessons when it adds significantly to learning and does something you cant do without it.  You dont even need to change your teaching style, just use tools that enhance your understanding of the students learning journey. Assessment for Learning can be transformed with Plickers /Socrative/Shadow Puppet and instantly and painlessly provides you with data that informs your lesson planning.    But first comes humanity and relationships and good behaviour management.

And it is that behaviour management that is key. Allowing students to access the most distracting device on the planet in lessons is clearly going to have a negative impact on learning. In banning them, the schools have removed this classroom management issue and there was a corresponding rise in the results.  Having worked in turning around failing schools It was very clear that anything that you changed in order to improve behaviour – be it uniform, equipment etc had a positive impact as long as it was applied consistently. Those teachers finding mobile phones were a pain would be very supportive of the ban.  I feel it is plausible that simply  enforcing rules may have been a significant factor,  rather than explicitly the mobile phones.  Though the study also pointed out that the biggest impact was on the lower achievers – those most likely to be switched off lessons and hence reach for their phones. Could we look at why they were switched off rather than simply seeing the distraction as the issue?  Could the phones be their solution to the problem of the inappropriateness of the curriculum to their needs rather than the problem itself?

Then there is pedagogy – Headline from BBC Business

“School technology struggles to make an impact”  

We now have digitally competency measurements from Pisa – always slightly worrying how much store governments put on them. Sir Ken Robinson ” Pisa is to education what the Eurovision Song Contest is to music”

The Pisa assessments now provide first-of-its-kind internationally comparative analysis of the digital skills that students have acquired, and of the learning environments designed to develop these skills.

These data show that the reality in schools lags considerably behind the promise of technology.

 

The crux of the piece is that those countries that have invested heavily in technology have not shown any improvements and in some there has been a decline. Sadly there is also no evidence it improves the poverty gap inequality.

What it is not saying is how the technology is being used. These devices are simply tools and if they are being used inappropriately then they will hinder progress.

I totally agree with Tom Bennett  that learning takes effort. See my posts on Clarity vs Confusion and thinking

Technology can make the learning journey very easy. I can copy and paste, use google translate, photomath  and very quickly come up with the answer to things that I do not retain in my memory (hence will be gone by the time the exams come)  So no deep learning has taken place.  Many students are happy to hand in their plagiarised homework  as their idea is that the teacher wants to see work rather than learning.  Or students spend a disproportionate amount of time creating a pretty Powerpoint that keeps them working but not learning and I think this may be a huge issue.  They can work for hours on something, look engaged, but learn nothing. Having taught many different subjects when the students are on computers the amount of teaching I do can fall significantly  as the students are just “getting on with it.”

Only add the Technology when you know what value it adds to learning 

The BBC report gives two interpretations both of which I feel are true

One interpretation is that building deep, conceptual understanding and higher-order thinking requires intensive teacher-student interactions, and technology sometimes distracts from this valuable human engagement.

Another interpretation is that schools have not yet become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that make the most of technology; that adding 21st-Century technologies to 20th-Century teaching practices will just dilute the effectiveness of teaching.

I worry that many teachers are drawing the conclusion that technology hinders learning. There is no doubt that technology used badly is worse than a waste of time. Taking the students to the computer room is often an easy lesson unless you carefully plan why the technology enhances learning. I know I have been guilty of this when absolutely exhausted and needing a break. It keeps the kids quiet !

I think far more training is needed on the transformational technological tools –  not the flashy gimmicks. How to effectively manage your classroom where the students use their mobile phones for learning.  Things have changed and we live in a connected world. Simply banning technology may in the short term be effective at improving exam results, but can we justify our classrooms  diverging even further from the real world?

Technology is neither good, nor bad. It is simply a tool that can massively enhance learning if used well. The problem is that it isnt being used well due to lack of understanding of what it can do.

One thing technology cannot do is enhance poor teaching. A poor teacher with students  who have mobile devices will have a class off task but apparently compliant. It can be used as a  sticking plaster that hides  bigger issues and that is an issue we need to resolve

Blogs worth reading that put pedagogy before technology

Steve Wheeler @timbuckteeth

http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/learning-first-technology-second.html

Mark Anderson@ICTEvangelist

http://ictevangelist.com/tag/pedagogy/

Martin Burrett @ICTmagic

http://ukedchat.com/ictmagic/

Mr Parkinson @ICT_MrP

mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk

Mark Richardson @ICTMarc

rebelmouse.com/wcsict

 

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