A ban on students using mobile phones during school hours would be difficult to enforce, but could bring more positive schoolyard interactions, experts say.
Education minister James Merlino yesterday announced mobile phones would be banned for all students at Victorian state primary and secondary schools next year to help reduce distraction, tackle cyber bullying and improve learning outcomes.
Students will be required to switch off their phones and store them securely in lockers from the start of the school day until the final bell, with exceptions available for students who use phones to monitor health conditions or where teachers tell students to bring their phone for a particular classroom activity.
Conversation is the words, it's the tone, it's the body language, facial expressions and all the things that go with it. Some of those other parts of communication are not in place with technology and they are good skills to have ... and by not having their phone during recess or lunchtime they have to develop those other skills which isn't a bad thing.- Gary Palmer
Most Ballarat secondary schools already have mobile phone policies in place banning students from bringing them to class, or having them out of their pockets in class.
Ballarat High School principal Gary Palmer introduced a mobile phone policy at the school about 18 months ago. Students are not allowed to take their phone to class unless instructed.
"The purpose is to allow them to focus on their learning and not have the phone as a distraction," he said.
Students are allowed access to their phones at recess and lunch, but Mr Palmer said the government ban would mean they would have to interact more.
"Conversation is the words, it's the tone, it's the body language, facial expressions and all the things that go with it. Some of those other parts of communication are not in place with technology and they are good skills to have ... and by not having their phone during recess or lunchtime they have to develop those other skills which isn't a bad thing."
Me Palmer said enforcing the school day ban could be challenging, but expected students to fall in to line with consistent expectations and consequences.
Principals of schools across the state where similarly strict bans are already in place have reported less distraction in the classroom, improved social connections, relationships and interactions in the school during break times.
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But Swinburne University of Technology Associate Professor Therese Keane said a blanket ban was not the right approach to issues around mobile phone use.
"In my opinion, a systematic blanket ban imposed by the State Government on mobile phones will not empower students to use this device appropriately," said Associate Professor Keane.
"Students already have access to Apple watches that have cellular functionality (i.e., phone and data), iPads with cellular that can override school networks. Therefore, banning mobile phones is not the answer.
"The policy actually should give greater authority to teachers to confidently use the technology to support the teaching and learning that takes place in the classroom such as taking pictures and videos and using virtual reality."
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