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21 February 2018

Noise Levels Dialled Up As School's Total Phone Ban Gets Kids Talking

McKinnon students Xavier Verdnik (16), Catherine
Braniska (14) and Louisa D'Ambra (13) have to lock
their phones away in their lockers. 
Photo:  Joe Armao
"Schools should be teaching students how to use the devices correctly."

Noise levels dialled up as school's total phone ban gets kids talking
by Henrietta Cook, theage.com.au
20 February 2018

McKinnon Secondary College’s decision to ban mobile phones had an unexpected side effect.

The schoolyard became much louder during recess and lunch.


"I hadn’t anticipated the level of noise," principal Pitsa Binnion said.

"There was laughter, people were actually interacting and socialising."

While many schools have banned mobile phones during class time, the high-performing state school in Melbourne’s south-east decided to go one step further.

From the start of term 1, McKinnon students have had to store phones in their lockers and are not allowed to touch them until they leave school, even during breaks.

‘‘It had really impacted on the learning opportunities for children,’’ Ms Binnion said.

‘‘I don’t think they were making use of every lesson as effectively because they were constantly distracted.’’

Mobile phones may have been around for years but educators and policymakers are still tackling their use in schools.

The long-running debate was recently reignited when the French government announced it would ban students from using mobile phones in primary, junior and middle schools.

French children will be allowed to bring the devices to school but will be prohibited from accessing them until the end of the day.

And in Australia, Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham recently said smartphones should be locked away during school hours because they were a distraction and platform for cyber bullying.

McKinnon Secondary College’s push to ban phones came from an unlikely source – students.

In forums held in August, children from the most tech-savvy generation raised concerns about the devices distracting them in class.

Ms Binnion got a taste of these distractions when she began confiscating phones from students who had flouted the new rules.

‘‘I couldn’t believe how many notifications are coming through, constantly, and messages from mum and dad,’’ she said.

On a few occasions, Year 11 student Xavier Verdnik felt himself reaching for an imaginary phone in his pocket.

But he said he quickly adjusted to the changes.

‘‘Not having the distraction there at all, rather than having to try to avoid it, makes it a lot easier,’’ he said.

In education circles, Balwyn High School is known for its longstanding ban on phones.

Following Mr Birmingham’s comments, principal Deborah Harman said she was contacted by other schools who wanted tips on how to introduce a similar ban.

‘‘When students are not in classes we want them to be interacting with students on a personal level and not distracted from those relationships,’’ she said.

Banning phones has also encouraged students to take part in lunchtime activities such as sport, music and chess.

Monash University associate professor Michael Henderson, who is researching digital distractions in schools and universities, is opposed to a smartphone ban.

He said the technology could be a wonderful resource and communication device, but needed to be used in moderation.

‘‘We shouldn’t be banning the possession of the phone but should be working with the students to look at when it is effective and for what purposes,’’ Dr Henderson said.

He said research had linked personal devices, including mobile phones, to a diminished attention span, ability to retain information and overall academic performance.

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Sue Bell said the horse had bolted when it came to smartphones.

‘‘They have been around for the majority of these kids’ lives, their parents use them continuously and the workforce they are going into will expect them to have high levels of skill with them,’’ she said.

She said schools should be teaching students how to use the devices correctly.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said most schools prohibited phones being used during class time, and he thought this was the best approach.

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/noise-levels-dialled-up-as-school-s-total-phone-ban-gets-kids-talking-20180220-p4z0zq.html

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