Scientists at the University of Nottingham have conducted an experiment on the pupils of three British secondary schools to see for what purposes pupils use their mobile phones when at school.
Dr. Elizabeth Hartnell-Young and colleagues conducted an experiment that involved 331 pupils in schools in Cambridgeshire, West Berkshire and Nottingham. The pupils were allowed to use their mobile phones at school, something that almost every teacher tries to ban.
During the nine-month experiment, 14-16 year old pupils used their mobile phones for a wide range of educational purposes. This conclusion came actually quite surprising.
Students used their smartphones for creating short movies, setting homework reminders, recording a teacher reading a poem. The handsets that could connect tot the Internet allowed pupils to access website and seek information as well as to log in the school email system and exchanging files.
"At the start of the study, even pupils were often surprised at the thought that mobile phones could be used for learning,” Dr Hartnell-Young will tell the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association in Edinburgh today. "After their hands-on experience, almost all pupils said they had enjoyed the project and felt more motivated."
The experiment showed that most pupils used their mobile phones for learning purposes. Of course there were exceptions and worries that some handset may be stolen, but in the end the research went out without any problems.
Even though the study had positive results, many teachers remain skeptical. Most say that the children use their smartphones for entertainment purposes only and the handsets can interfere with lessons.
Dr Hartnell-Young says that the teachers' worries are understandable. "While the eventual aim should be to lift blanket bans on phones we do not recommend immediate, whole-school change," she said.
"Instead we believe that teachers, students and the wider community should work together to develop policies that will enable this powerful new learning tool to be used safely. We hope that, in future, mobile phone use will be as natural as using any other technology in school.”