Tuesday, February 9, 2016
School that Banned Cell Phones Saw Test Scores Go Up
In a classroom observation this week I sat in the back of the class and saw students texting, shopping, playing games and looking at YouTube. When there was a break in discussion over half the students looked at their phones. I am in the classroom a lot, and this is not uncommon. I observe private and public schools, small and large schools, traditional and non-traditional schools. The pattern is the same. When teens have a free moment, it is an automatic response for most of them to look at their phone.
It is not surprising that a study completed at the London School of Economics and Political Science showed a significant increase in test scores for schools that banned cell phones. They found "schools that didn’t allow students to carry cell phones saw overall test scores go up by 6.4 percent. More specifically, the students who didn’t perform well increased their test scores by 14 percent after these bans went into effect (2015)." In addition, the authors reported, "banning phones for these students equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days.”
While I see the issue of distractions caused by cell phones in the classroom as a pervasive problem across schools, I do see a difference depending on the teacher's policy. In classrooms with teachers who have a rule that no phones will be out during class, I see the distractions much less frequently. In fact, students are more respectful about asking to use their phone to take a picture of notes on the board or a homework assignment. The students are more engaged in discussion and are thoughtful in their answers to questions, rather than looking to Google to give them the answers.
The research by Beland and Murphy is powerful and shows the magnetic affect cell phones have to many teenagers' (and adults') attention. It can significantly impact their learning and performance in school. At the same time, my experience showed me that teachers have a lot of power in the classroom to change the focus to the essential information being taught in the classroom.
For the whole study go to:
ARTICLE: Communication: Technology, Distraction & Student Performance
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