Does banning cell phones end friction in the classroom?

Suzanne Allan,BBC Scotland News


Gracie, a 12th grader, says the phone ban has been a good thing for her school

To ban or not to ban?

That’s the question headteachers across Scotland are facing as they try to cope with the growing use of mobile phones in schools.

For one Glasgow high school student, the decision to keep electronic devices out of the classroom was the right one.

All Saints’ Day in Barmulloch took the plunge earlier this year, completely banning mobile phones in the classroom.

English teacher Siobhan Healy said phones were becoming a problem.

“We always tell our young people to keep it in their bag, even to have it in their pocket, it’s a buzz, it’s basically a toy.

“There’s never a time when you have their full attention if the phone is there.”

Teacher Siobhan Healy wears a black t-shirt in her classroom.

English teacher Siobhan Healy says phones are ‘like toys’

She added: “On top of that, it brings other problems into the classroom.

“If you talk to teachers, we’ve all had a scenario where something happened in class that caused an argument or an upset.

“They never manage to escape other kids who annoy them or say things about them, which can really cause friction in class.”

Now, any student caught using one during class is politely asked to put it away.

If that doesn’t happen, it stays in a box until the timer expires.

Ms. Healy says that in the past it could be difficult to get students’ full concentration.

“You hear the Snapchat pings. You talk to the top of heads quite often and you know they have their phone under the desk or behind a book.

“As soon as I don’t get up and talk to them directly, they think, ‘I’m off the hook and I’m going to use my phone.’

“That means you’re repeating instructions four or five times, so you never really get ahead with the work you’re trying to do.”

Erin, with blonde hair and glasses, sits in her classroom

Erin, a sixth grader, thinks phones are a distraction

For now, the decision to ban or allow phones in one form or another rests with school principals.

Some schools allow them in class, others limit them to recess, while several ban them altogether.

But the Scottish Government is expected to publish new national guidance soon.

Their ban at school is a subject that divides students, teachers and parents.

A recent international study, published by the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa), showed that around a third of pupils in Scottish classrooms admitted to being distracted by phones during most or every lesson.

Ms Healy agrees but thinks a third is an underestimate.

The teacher added, “Even with your most focused and enthusiastic student, there will be times when they have their phone off.”

She fully agrees that banning phones in class has made a big difference.

Ms Healy said: “If the phones are in the classroom, it’s their whole social life in the classroom with them, otherwise it’s lecture and concentration time.”

All Saints manager Brian McDermott sitting in his office

Superintendent Brian McDermott said there were two main issues with phone use.

Principal Brian McDermott decided a ban was necessary after feedback from teachers.

“We designed it around two particular issues,” he said.

“One was misuse in classrooms and two, young people were trying to get around that by seeking to leave the classroom for legitimate reasons.

“But then that time out of class was a lot longer than expected.

“Young people asked to leave classes about six times a day and then got noticed with their phones.”

He added that young people were asked for their views and presented with the case that “learning is the key activity”.

Mr McDermott is happy with how the ban is currently enforced, but remains open about what the Scottish Government’s guidance might recommend.

He said: “This has significantly reduced usage in classrooms.

“It hasn’t eradicated it, but it has brought a little awareness, made more explicit, that cell phones can be counterproductive to learning and that’s a good narrative to have in school.

“Overall I’m happy with it, but there’s always room for improvement.”

School student Ruby in her uniform sitting in class

Ruby saw other students circumvent the ban

Erin – who is in sixth grade – sees both sides.

“I can leave it aside, but it’s a big personal part of my life.

“In this generation, it’s a big part of life and I don’t think I could live without it.

“They cause a lot of distraction, but they’re a quick way to look up information if we need it and they give us a lot of access to the Internet.”

First-year Ruby said students accept the ban, but she still sees a small number in class.

“Some people who still do it and have it taken out, others put it away instead of taking it out. It’s changed the way they think about (phones).

Carson, wearing his uniform, smiles at the camera in class

Carson thinks his friends’ lives revolve around their phones

Carson, also a freshman, sees many friends revolving their lives around cell phones.

“I don’t see the point,” he said.

“I use Snapchat but I’m not on it every two minutes.”

Gracie, who is leaving school this term, believes that older pupils are more focused on their studies than younger ones.

She hailed the ban as a “good thing” and highlighted how easy it is to get distracted by notifications.

Gracie, who admits they are useful for researching essays, added: “There are a lot of dangerous things, aliens, getting hacked but I think it’s necessary now, I need it for work, the older generation doesn’t understand how much the younger generation.” generation needs it. »

Parent Charles Smith in a gray jacket in a classroom

Charles Smith has two daughters and likes knowing they have their phones for security reasons

Charles Smith has two daughters at the school.

He supports what All Saints is doing but would not like to see a total ban.

Mr Smith said: “I don’t agree with an outright ban in schools, there are good reasons for people to have their phones.

“I often come here to pick up my kids at the end of the day and text them to say, ‘I’m here.

“Sometimes there are good reasons for them to contact me, if they are not well, etc.

“I think they (phones) are useful, but obviously not in classrooms.”

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth said late last year that she wanted to update national guidance on phone use in schools as quickly as possible.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As a starting point for this guidance, school leaders should be empowered to take whatever action they consider necessary, including banning mobile phone use – indeed, many school leaders have already chosen to do this within their school communities. »