At the beginning of the school year, discussion on the use of mobile phones at schools has again become a topical issue. Most Czech children receive their first phone when they enter first grade. What is the situation regarding the use of mobile phones in schools? Should schools motivate teachers to actively use mobile phones and the internet in the classroom? Or do mobile phones disrupt and prevent learning at school? At the end of August, T-Mobile conducted a survey on this topic among parents and teachers and the results were somewhat surprising. While most parents were clearly in favour of tougher restrictions on the use of mobile phones at school, the position of teachers is not so clearly strict – at least a third of the teachers participating in the survey said that they actively use mobile internet in their teaching.
The results of a survey conducted for T-Mobile by the agency IPSOS among 525 parents of children aged 6-18 from across the entire Czech Republic show that two-thirds of Czech parents are in favour of a general prohibition on the use of mobile phones throughout the entire time that students spend at school, following the example of France and other European countries. They believe that mobile phones distract children from learning and that they can be misused during tests, particularly by older pupils. Many parents are also worried about the fact that children brag about who has a better mobile phone, which may lead to bullying and exacerbation of social differences. A general prohibition was, for example, introduced by France from this September. French MPs have approved a ban on the use of mobile phones, tablets and smart watches at school during the whole school day. Use of mobile phones is being restricted in Scandinavia; the United Kingdom also wants to ban mobile phones at the second level of primary schools.
Conversely, younger parents in the Czech Republic have a more benevolent approach to the use of mobile phones. They argue that mobile phones and tablets are an ordinary part of today’s world, children use them naturally and that school should prepare them for life also in this respect. Bohumil Kartous, an education expert from the EDUin education information centre, agrees: “A ban or restriction on the use of smartphones in class is a reflection of adults’ helplessness with respect to how digital technologies should be meaningfully integrated into education and teaching. That is rather sweeping the problem under the rug. Modern technologies significantly affect the lives of people and society and schools should endeavour to find a solution on how they should be appropriately incorporated into the classroom environment.”
The shares of teachers who approve and disapprove of the use of mobile phones in schools are equal. Almost all teachers participating in the survey agree that the use of mobile phones in schools is a very significant phenomenon of recent years. Some teachers try to integrate mobile phones and the internet into lessons, while others perceive the problematic consequences of using mobile phones. While a general ban on mobile phones is the preferred alternative especially among older teachers, the majority of teachers under the age of 35 view the internet and mobile phones as teaching aids. Three-quarters of teachers actively use the internet for working with pupils. At least a third of them assign tasks and projects in such a way that pupils can use their mobile phones to complete them. Another roughly 40% of teachers use the internet in the classroom but pupils are required to have their mobile phones put away during class. Mobile internet is most often used as a fast dictionary in foreign language classes, as a source of information or for use in interactive applications. Conversely, approximately a quarter of teachers perceive the use of mobile phones during breaks between classes as a problem. According to them, a number of pupils spend almost the entire time during breaks with their mobile phones in their hands, which leads to poorer preparedness for class and worsened communication among pupils, who close themselves off in their own world due to mobile phones. Almost all participating teachers agree that specific rules must be set for the use of mobile phones and enforced. Only a third of respondents said that their school has implemented functional rules for the use of mobile phones; according to the majority of the respondents, rules are in place but compliance is lacking.
Mobile phones as part of modern education? Yes, with moderation.
“Current students and pupils have been using mobile phones and tablets since an early age. Czech schools should try to take advantage of that and not fight against it. For example, there are a number of interesting applications available thanks to which students can learn information on physics, chemistry and history much more effectively than by rote memorisation from textbooks,” says Martina Kemrová, Senior Head of Corporate Communication at T-Mobile, commenting on the results of the survey and adding: “If we accepted the idea that it is not so essential to have lists of dates, names or definitions in our heads but that it is sufficient to know where to find them, students could focus on a much more important activity – finding correlations. Nevertheless, it is a matter of course that schools can and should regulate the use of mobile devices for the benefit of education.”
Question to teachers: Do you use the internet in the classroom?
Yes, I use the internet but I don’t want my students to use it on their phones
I almost don’t use the internet because we have poor signal at the school
Question to parents: Would you approve of a general ban on mobile phones at schools?