I seem to be having a number of discussions with parents (particularly mothers) about the quantity and type of technology that is being used within schools for the purposes of education.
Screentime and homework
Post-apocalyptic 'educational' content
Do phones belong in schools?
This is a highly sensitive and polarising topic. Mobile phones have been banned in schools in France, Italy and Portugal. In October 2023 the UK government announced that ‘Mobile phone use to be banned during the school day, including at break time’, in an attempt to tackle online bullying, decrease distractions and increase attention and focus.
A recent Guardian article reports on some of the benefits of reducing hyper-connectivity in the school environment and the resulting increase in attention and face-to-face connectivity. It show-cases a Massachusetts (USA) school that has introduced a Light Phone with minimal functionality, that results in less time spent on screens, fewer distractions and more meaningful interactions in and out of classes.
A Rutgers University–New Brunswick study found that mobile use during educational sessions can reduce overall test scores.
‘The study found that having a device didn’t lower students’ scores in comprehension tests within lectures but did lower their scores in the end-of-term exam by at least 5 percent, or half a grade. This finding shows for the first time that the main effect of divided attention in the classroom is on long-term retention.
In addition, when the use of electronic devices was allowed in class, performance was also poorer for students who did not use devices as well as for those who did’.
What is the 'digital technology use in schools' solution?
That is not an easy question to answer.
We are still in the middle of a digital technology social experiment – on-boarding all available technology and finding out the longer-term (positive and negative) consequences as we go along. Sometimes after investing a lot of money and social capital into the said technology.
It will take us a few decades to really understand the human and social consequences of our digital technology use in the education system. But, it does seem that teachers and parents needs to take a more cautionary approach to what and how much digital integration is included.
Maybe we need to revert to a greater degree of ‘non-digital education’. It worked for many generations, and still has that capacity to be a highly effective form of learning.