DR MICHAEL SLATTERY: Smartphones in classrooms

Despite Government calls for smartphones to be banned in classrooms, some experts say doing so would take education back "a few years".

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has come out in favour of locking mobile phones away during school hours. "Classroom time is for learning," he said. "Not to be distracted from learning." He did concede mobile technology "has its place" as a learning tool, but said "there was no conceivable reason as to why students need to access their personal mobile" at school. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian echoed his view.

In recent weeks the use of mobile phones in schools has been topical with responses from all sectors to the issues surrounding their use or misuse in schools. I note that the majority of our schools the policy states that students are not to use mobile phones and the phones are to be switched off and in school bags or lockers.

Some schools are allowing students to use mobile phones in the luncheon breaks. One only needs to see responses for and against to get an idea of the polarisation of opinion on this topic. Read more here.

As Catholic schools we need a consistent response to any inappropriate use of mobile technology, including taking action to prevent cyber bullying and responding to it if it occurs in our schools.  We do not support the inappropriate use of technology including cyber bullying, taking inappropriate photographs, passing on inappropriate images, or simply using technology outside of the prescribed times set by the school.

Feedback from schools indicates that the response needs to be consistently applied by all staff to ensure compliance by students. We have an opportunity in our schools to ensure technology is used for learning and learning only. Schools are about learning and can ensure that students abide by the appropriate use of technology policy in a consistent manner.

I encourage school principals in our Diocese to revisit the issue to ensure policy is followed and that students thrive in a learning environment free from distraction.

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Dr Michael Slattery Image
Dr Michael Slattery

Dr Michael Slattery is the Director of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.