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Should Mobile Phones Be Allowed in Schools

Children should be allowed to use their mobile phones in class because they can serve as ‘learning aids’, a study claims today. Academics are calling on schools to rethink bans on phone handsets after trials suggested that functions such as calculators, stopwatches and email can be ‘educational’. However, the call is certain to infuriate many teachers and parents, who will be concerned that pupils will be unable to resist the temptation to put the devices to less productive uses, such as cyber-bullying or cheating in tests.

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During a nine-month experiment involving classes aged 14 to 16, pupils either used their own mobiles in lessons or the new generation of ‘ smartphones’ which allow internet connection. They were used to create short films, set homework reminders, record a teacher reading a poem and time experiments with the phones’ stopwatches. The smartphones also allowed pupils to access revision websites, log into the school email system, or transfer electronic files between school and home.

The study by researchers at Nottingham University involved 331 pupils in schools in Cambridgeshire, West Berkshire and Nottingham. ‘At the start of the study, even pupils were often surprised at the thought that mobile phones could be used for learning,’ Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young will tell the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association in Edinburgh later today. ‘After their hands-on experience, almost all pupils said they had enjoyed the project and felt more motivated. One teacher told researchers that students like mobiles and they know how to use them. ‘Using this technology gives them more freedom to express themselves without needing to be constantly supervised,’ the teacher said. However, the report admits that some teachers think greater use of mobile phones in schools could prove problematic. Increased temptation to steal phones belonging to the school was one worry. ‘I thought, well, four of these smartphones…