Survey: Cell Phones in Class a Bad Idea

Survey says teens don't want cell phones in class

It’s easy for adults to assume that most teens are techno-gadget freaks with attention spans equivalent to house flies. With all the technology hype and young people being so keen on early adoption of the latest greatest tech, I suppose they will just have to forgive us old folks if sometimes we make assumptions based on casual observation through the lens of our own dubious collective past.

Here where I live, a debate has been going on for the last year or so regarding the value of cell phones as learning tools in school. What value (if any) do cell phones bring to learning? Not a great deal if the results of a recent survey are any indication.

You’d think kids would be overwhelmingly in favour of using smartphones in class as education tools. But a survey (it had only the one tech related question on it) of 2,656 (mostly grade 12) Ontario, Canada students challenges some stereotypes we may have regarding teens and mobile phones. When asked if they thought cell phones had a place in the classroom as an educational tool, 72% responded no.

Even the Premier of the province must be feeling a little sheepish since last fall he pondered publicly about investigating the value of allowing cell phones in the classroom provided they are used to help kids learn. It appears the students themselves disagree with him.

One student put it this way: “As an educational tool, I don’t believe so. They are quite a distraction. I see people texting a lot, and it has no educational purpose. I don’t think that they should be banned completely because they can still be useful but they do not aid education.”

Even though the question was carefully phrased to ask if phones should be used for educational tools, the students still seemed to have perceived the potential abuse of the privilege and distraction as a bigger concern than any value gained.

I could speculate that had this been a survey conducted primarily among grade nine students, the outcome may have been much different. After all, these are seniors, many of whom are preparing for university and they probably take things just a bit more seriously. However, that’s just speculation, but I would love to see the same question posed to freshmen.

I do believe tablets and smartphones will become learning tools employed in the classroom in the future. In fact, tablets and such technology as cloud computing hold huge promise for education. Has anyone else noticed that tablet PCs are reminiscent of the old slate tablets from the days of the one room school house? It’s something like “Little House on the Prairie” meets “The Jetsons”.

We never got the credit we deserved for being capable decision makers when we were teens, now did we? This one question on the survey suggests we need to give those techno-gadget freak kids of today a little more credit — being wired doesn’t mean they’re distracted and self absorbed.

Just something to think about the next time you are working on any kind of marketing campaign involving teens.