ACCORDING to 2011 statistics, over 5.6 billion mobile phones were in people’s possession worldwide. This was approximately 79.86 per cent of the total world population. The number is expected to soar in the future.
While the world continues to celebrate this telecommunication innovation, it goes without saying that a section of society is lamenting mobile phone usage by those who shouldn’t be using them especially students.
The question is not the modalities of using the phones in class or putting them in the silent mode during class hours. It is more to do with the unrestricted access of internet and other services that are available on the palms of the students’ hands.
Debates rage on concerning mobile phone use in classrooms. A total ban from phoneuse in schools in general, or just use in the classroom seems universally accepted in most of the countries in the world.
“The outrageous behaviour that you occasionally see in all schools is serious, but I think the bigger issue is the low-level disruption which stops children from learning effectively. Teachers and head teachers have got to stamp that out,” an education inspector noted.
Under new reforms, schools in the developed world risk being marked down for failing to tackle persistent interruptions such as text messaging, receiving calls and surfing the web on student’s phones.
Many educators who have had a chance to teach students with mobile phones in class have to admit that disruptions caused by incoming calls, ringtones, movement of students in and out of class when receiving calls and texting are not only disgusting but also inhibitive.
A critical question one may ask is whether phones usage in class is strictly negative.
In South Africa, an eccentric turn has been taken. Students are increasingly using their cell phones as a learning tool, seeking math help and improving their reading skills through mobile social networking applications. In some schools, students use phones during lessons. They can Google and find information as the teacher goes on with teaching.
While that is a good move to some extent, dealing with discipline issues is the biggest challenge. I think mobile phone usage in schools should be worked out as internet access still remains low especially in rural populations.
Take, for example, Dr Math, a project in South Africa that connects students with live Math and Science tutors using MXit, a wildly popular social networking application for mobile phones. Many students can benefit from this if they can use mobile phones in school after formal class hours.
Perhaps, the other challenge may be affordability of the kind of phones that have internet access options. All in all, let the good not be overshadowed by the imminent bad as a result of abuse.