Cellphones can be valuable learning tool

September 12th, 2008 - 3:02 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 12 (IANS) Mobile phones can be highly distracting at times, so much so that most school teachers impose a blanket ban on their use by pupils in classrooms. However, Nottingham University (NU) researchers have come up with new evidence to suggest that cellphones can be a powerful learning tool.Elizabeth Hartnell-Young and colleagues at NU reached the conclusion after studying the consequences of permitting pupils in five secondary schools to use either their own cellphones or the new generation of ’smartphones’ in lessons.

During the nine-month experiment that involved 331 pupils in Cambridgeshire, West Berkshire and Nottingham schools, 14 to 16-year-olds used the phones for a variety of educational purposes.

These comprised creating short movies, setting homework reminders, recording a teacher reading a poem, and timing experiments with the phones’ stopwatches.

The smartphones, which could connect to the Internet, also allowed pupils to access revision websites, log into the school email system, or transfer electronic files between school and home.

“Pupils were often surprised at the thought that mobile phones could be used for learning. After their hands-on experience, almost all pupils said they had enjoyed the project and felt more motivated,” Hartnell-Young told the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association in Edinburgh Thursday.

Some teachers also had to reassess their views. “Using this technology gives them more freedom to express themselves without needing to be constantly supervised,” said one.

Other teachers found that pupils who lacked confidence gained most from the project.

Increased temptation to steal phones was one worry. “I thought, well, four of these smartphones are going to end up on eBAY tomorrow,” one teacher said. That fear turned out to be misplaced.

Teachers’ unions also voiced similar fears. “Pupils nowadays come to school equipped with mobile phones, MP3 players, and portable games consoles when teachers would like them to just bring a pen,” said Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union.

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