Phone ban at schools opposed

Kaitlyn Martin. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Kaitlyn Martin. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Dunedin educationist Kaitlyn Martin disagrees with blanket phone bans at schools, and believes phones can help involve some hard-to-reach pupils in science education.

"You would not ban notebook paper because kids pass notes," she said yesterday.

"What needs to be focused on is helping pupils to develop the skills to manage them [phones].

"There are huge benefits in using these devices for education as tools; they’re small computers with cameras."

US-born Miss Martin (29) has completed a University of Otago doctoral thesis in science communication.

She appreciated the need to limit phone use in some circumstances, but there was a risk that if restrictions were too extensive they could make it harder for pupils to learn the skills needed to manage the devices.

Next month she will become a lecturer at the Waikato University School of Education in Hamilton.

In her doctoral research, Miss Martin studied how class projects using cellphones to make educational science films could engage secondary school pupils and boost creativity.

Such phone use could prove "incredibly useful for schools, instead of just banning them".

She had also been impressed with the way several boys who were previously not fully engaged in their secondary education, had "blossomed" by creating a film on climate change — having also brought in an app and another computer device to help.

RNZ reported late last year that pupils at an Auckland secondary school were rediscovering the joy of card games and lunchtime play, because of a total ban on phones during the school day.

The school, Glendowie College, was one of the latest schools to restrict pupils’ use of phones.

Otago Secondary Principals Association chairwoman Lindy Cavanagh-Monaghan, who is the principal of Blue Mountain College, said all Otago secondary schools had some restrictions on the cellphone use of pupils.

These requirements varied between schools, and in keeping with the feelings of various school communities, and were under constant review.

One key aim was to balance the potential distraction of pupils against the information-finding and creative potential of cellphones as learning tools, she said.

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