Are mobile phones disruptive or a learning tool?


Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 24 May 2016|17 Sha’baan 1437

Mobile phones are fast becoming a trend amongst younger users in most countries. More pupils are accessing smartphones that can connect to the internet and are taking these phones to school.

Phones are often used in school whether they’re allowed or not and although they can enable valuable access to information, there are also a lot of dangers and responsibilities that lurk around it. Classes are interrupted by a ringing phone in class and the phone also allows easy access to pornographic sites. Very often pictures and video clips are taken and spread around the internet without the other persons consent.

A study of mobile phone use in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa indicates the emphasis that mobile phones occupy in many young people’s lives. Before the mobile phone arrived in Africa, few people had access to landlines. The mobile phone represents far more of a communication revolution in Africa than in richer countries.

Young people are using the cell phone today for general relations, job searches and health advice. Concern is growing over the use of phones in schools by learners all over the world.

A recent survey of children aged nine to 18 years shows that mobile phone use is much higher than ownership figures might suggest. Ownership of phones was lowest in Malawi, the poorest of the three countries. Here only 8% of children in the survey owned their own phone, compared with 16% in Ghana and 51% in South Africa. Nonetheless, in Malawi 35% of children said they had used a phone in the week before the survey. In Ghana the figure was 42% and in South Africa it was 77%. Children often borrow phones from each other, their parents and other family members.

The questionnaire also deduced that some pupils, particularly in South Africa, use their phones to access sites for help with homework. But the positive benefits mostly seem to be limited to mundane tasks such as contacting friends to check on homework or using the phone as a calculator. Much information from pupils and teachers was more negative: academic performance affected by disrupted classes – due to teachers as well as pupils using their phones – disrupted sleep because of cheap night calls, time wasted on prolonged sessions on social network sites, and harassment, bullying and pornography.

Now, with smartphones, messaging on Whats App or checking Facebook has become common classroom activities. Teachers’ phone use in class can be equally disruptive. A call comes in, or they make a call, and whether they step outside or take the call in class, the end result is that the lesson is interrupted.

Here are some suggestions on how to promote responsible use of phones between leaners and teachers:

Pupil phone use:

  • If the school has decided to allow pupils to bring their mobile phone to school for instance, because of travel problems, but not to use it in school, then pupils could be required to put a name tag on their phone and deposit it with a staff member, using a register, before school begins. In this case parents or guardians must be given a phone number for urgent messages
  • Pupils also need reminders not to publish personal information on the internet and to tell their teacher, a parent or guardians if they access any information that worries them
  • Parents must be encouraged to help their child follow the school’s guidelines. Asking them to sign an acceptable use agreement together with their children will help
  • Parents need to be aware of what the child is accessing via the phone

Teacher phone use:

  • In order to maintain a professional environment, Teachers’ should switch mobile phones off during lessons
  • Teachers should respect the rules and refrain from using phones when pupils are not allowed to
  • A policy should be in place where teachers and pupils are not allowed to share contact numbers.

Extract – news 24
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