The smartphone is today’s iMac, Dell Inspiron or HP Deskpro computer. While computers of yesterday were masculine and technical, today’s pocket computers are built on minimalism philosophy and relate with the user in amazing ways. They are artistic; and all about espresso aesthetics. In English, smartphones are user-friendly and inseparable man’s companion.
Because they are cool, smartphones and children are inseparable. Facebook was actually created on Harvard campus to digitize friendship. It was created by kids for kids and extended to colleges and high schools. The adult dimension came in as venture capitalists took over in a cop style in a monetization ruse. In fact, late last year, Facebook created a version for small children less than the 14-year cap.
Today’s children are a Facebook and WhatsApp generation. Ask them about floppy disks and command-based DOS and they will flow in amazement. They do not check it out in a paper dictionary, they google it.
It is therefore an oxymoron, if you would, that mobile phone usage, in many schools, is criminal.
There is some merit, I must admit, in the ban-mobile-phone school of thought. The Conversation, a UK based research company specialising in the economics of education conducted a research in 2015 to gauge the impact of banning smartphones on test scores. The outcome was eye-opening.
Overall, student achievement improved. However, this was expressly noticeable for low achieving students. The impact for this category was equivalent to an additional hour per week or to increasing the school year by five days.
The study discovered that test scores of students aged 16 increased by 6.4 percent. At the time the study was being conducted, 90.3 percent of teenagers in the UK owned a mobile phone compared to 73 percent in US. The gains observed among students with lowest achievement were double those amongst average students. However, banning mobile phones had no discernable effect on high achievers.
What this means is that the students who benefited from the smartphone ban already had learning maladies of all sorts. For parents that have more than one kid, they may attest that kids are not the same. They have different talents yet they are all bundled up in one classroom learning the same subjects. Mathematics and Sciences at the top while the arts take the bottom rung of the ladder.
A good education system must stimulate learning. It is not automatic that because somebody taught that learning happened. Teachers must not assume that they have monopoly of wisdom. Students must be allowed to explore further than the confines of the textbook. The smartphone is a natural extension.
By the time my age was in a boarding secondary school, some had already divorced two wives. It is no longer the case. Toddlers roam around secondary school campuses today. These children need to voice WhatsApp, video Imo or instant message their parents just to keep in touch.
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