Should devices be accessible in the classroom?

July 30, 2018

Should devices be accessible in the classroom?

Exploring Teens written debate - Series #1, debate #3

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Before we begin, I ask for consideration of the following:

  • Please appreciate that these writers are not professional writers.  They are part of the Exploring Teens audience and have volunteered to write one side of this debate.
  • These debates show that every area of parenting has people who will passionately see it from completely opposite perspectives. Everyone’s experience is shaped by the lens of their own experience.  It’s unlikely there is ever a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ position.
  • Reading through the debates, I am in awe as to how much thought people put into parenting.  We often beat ourselves up, but I can't see any inadquacies here.  All I see is committed and passionate people wanting to do their very best for the teens in their care.



The case AGAINST devices in the classroom


How do you spell that? I don’t have my assignment ready because I didn’t have time to complete it. Can we listen to music? These are the most commonly heard sentences in classrooms today.

In the years since internet accessible devices have become the norm in classrooms; spelling and basic literacy has decreased by an alarming rate. A staggering 16.5% of Year 9 students across Australia were below the benchmark in writing after last year’s NAPLAN results were revealed. Coincidence? Hardly.

We don’t need a large body of literature to know that the use of electronic devices in classrooms can lead to a distracting environment.  It’s far too easy when a student perceives a lesson to become boring, to flick over to social media. Before they know it, they have lost track and are behind. It's no wonder students feel as though they never have time to complete their work. A recent study by Ravizza et al. (2016) found “that students who used laptops in class for non-academic reasons had poorer class performance, as indicated by their final grade. These students spent most of their in-class web time on social media, e-mails, and shopping websites.”

Children and teens are literally unaware of the proverbial rabbit hole they allow themselves to fall down. As adults, we too are not immune. We sit down for a short break and it’s almost habit to reach for our phone. It’s hard to deny just how easy it is to get lost in the internet but, as adults who grew up largely without technology, we have the skills and willpower to pull ourselves out. Children and teens have simply not developed these skills yet. Students who are excluded from using laptops or digital devices in classrooms do better in their exams than those allowed to use computers and access the internet. Research published by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that removing laptops and devices from classes is comparable to improved quality of teaching.

Allowing a generation to use internet accessible devices is creating a generation of the workforce that will assume it’s acceptable to spend worktime on social media. Technology has created a world where information is accessible by the touch of a button but children are not equipped with the basic skills to use these devices appropriately. As teachers we spend almost half of lesson time teaching students how to google properly and basic computer skills like printing and copy and paste. Neil Selwyn, professor of education at Monash University, is a leading researcher into the impact of technology in schools. “I’d say devices in the classroom are more work, rather than less work; particularly in year two and three often what the teacher wants to achieve and what the student can be achieving can be done more efficiently with less pain without the technology.”

Electronic devices complete with internet access have replaced traditional note-taking or research skills during lessons. Students, particularly those in high school and University, endeavour to copy their teacher verbatim without actually absorbing any of the material in the first instance. By going back to basics and encouraging students to hand write their notes forces them to become selective in their choice of words they wish to commit to paper. Thus, allowing for processing in the brain of the content. Not to mention, hand writing words is a proven method to improve spelling as it engages the whole brain to move the hand to form the letters which create the word.

Allowing students to use computers and the internet in classrooms significantly harms their results. In learning environments with lower incentives for performance, fewer disciplinary restrictions on distracting behaviour, and larger class sizes, the effects of internet-enabled technology on achievement is a recipe for failure.


Author bio: I have taught secondary education in 2 states as well as the public and private sector for 10 years.



The case FOR devices in the classroom


An educators core business is to prepare their students for life and their next stages of learning. Secondary students next stage can come from a myriad of options; TAFE, full-time employment, apprenticeships, tertiary studies etc.  It is imperative that our students learn to navigate the skills and expectations of this next phase.  Technology is the way forward and it will be the driver for change for the foreseeable future. If we don’t prepare our students and give them the necessary parameters and skills to navigate we are negligible in our responsibilities to them. Teaching our students how to access, utilise and effectively use devices in the classroom is integral to their success as learners.

Whilst the definition of devices is quite broad, for this discussion it will be simplified as pieces of technology that are designed for individual use.  This would include, phones, tablets, laptops etc. As we all know, these devices play a pivotal role in our day to day existence.  Emails, group chats, IM’ing, Skype, Word Documents, Photo Shop, Twitter and the list goes on and on. Not only are they relevant in our private lives but also critical components in our work and social lives.  It can therefore be said that understanding the nature of these applications and uses is essential for our success today. 

In many instances our understanding and use of these devices is assumed, certainly in the work force.  The reality is that these skills and the etiquettes that insure their uses, must be explicitly taught in today’s schools. The inclusion of these devices in our classrooms ensures that the students are given the knowledge to utilise and enhance their usage to improve learning and life.  These skills are then systematically transferred into their post school life, enabling them to be productive, active and happy participants in life. Teaching students the skills to adapt to post school life is a key component in successful educational practices today.  The use of devices and the explicit teaching of how to use them effectively and acceptably is a critical component of today’s schooling.

Being is a teenager today is harder than any previous generation. The reality that most students will go onto tertiary studies and that a bachelor’s degree is no longer a guarantee for employment in your given field of choice adds insurmountable pressure to their dynamic lives.  Dual working parents, split families, extended families, part-time work, sport and music commitments, household chores which include cooking and looking after siblings, provide us with a small snapshot of the lives that many of our teenager’s experience. For many teenagers, social media has provided a solution to the overburdened lives that they have found themselves in. The option to check-in remotely with friends and family at times of need, to seek reassurance from online experts, to form new friendships and to share their own life experiences can give teenagers a sense of belonging and increase their self-esteem.  Of course, all these forms of social media can come with certain pitfalls if they are not used appropriately. This is where the importance of device use within the classroom plays such a vital role.  The etiquette, social norms and strategies to problem solve issues can be taught within the classroom setting by experienced, caring and accessible teachers.

Teenagers interests and learning styles are diverse.  By using devices in the classroom, it allows for individualised learning styles that can help promote critical and creative thinking and encourage students to be self-directed learners. These attributes have been identified as the key skills associated with many of the most successful people. It is imperative that educators today give our teenagers the best chance to succeed and differentiate themselves in an ever-changing labour market.  Not having devices in the classroom ultimately means that the students are being disadvantaged when compared to their device using peers.

Device use is critical to the overall development and success of today’s teenagers as it allows them to gain the skills necessary to be successful and happy in life. By teaching the appropriate use and skills within the classroom we can ensure that our teenagers have the tools, parameters and etiquette to successfully navigate effective device use.


Author bio: A mother of 3 teenage children, 15,17 and 19.  I've been employed in tertiary education for over 20 years.  Teenagers are literally my life.



So now it's over to you guys!

We love would love to know which side of the debate you sit on.  

NEXT DEBATE IN SERIES #1 ----> Are you for or against partner sleepovers for your 'above age of consent' teen?

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