Find out how students react when their phones are taken away from them during school hours.
Insight explores the debate about the complexities and contradictions of technology’s role in the classroom. Full episode on SBS On Demand.
Students at McKinnon Secondary School were absorbed by their phones as they clicked on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and SuperCoach. This was happening throughout 2017 when there were limited restrictions on the use of phones. So this year principal Pitsa Binnion decided to totally ban mobile phones at school.
“Students weren't taking up the learning opportunity in class,” Ms Binnion tells Insight. “They were being distracted.”
The large public school in south-east Melbourne has a student population of 2,200 and according to Ms Binnion they were all addicted to their phones. “It was pretty extreme,” she says.
Year 12 student, Alex, agrees that students used their phones for purposes other than learning. “You'd see like a lot of kids looking at their phones during class, trying to take Snapchat pictures,” he says. “They’d run [headphone] cables through their arms … they’d be listening to music in class.”
Education researcher Ms Kristy Goodwin explains the neuro science behind why students, such as those of McKinnon Secondary School, found it difficult to disconnect from the digital world.
“Their brain actually releases the neurotransmitter dopamine,” she says. “So looking at Snapchat, looking at Facebook, Instagram will give dopamine hits that no matter how competent and engaging and dynamic the teacher is, it's not match for what's going on, on the screen.”
That constant distraction by the phone was something Ms Binnion used to witness on a daily basis. “The majority of the time they were just looking at constant [social media] notifications,” she says.
“Every school has its own unique culture..."
For Year 12 student, Sienna, the ban has had a positive impact.
“I've definitely noticed a change … in my own studying habits,” she says. “I think just not having that option there to go and reach for my phone when I'm distracted has forced me to be more engaged in class and has forced me in my time where I need to be studying just to really focus on the work that I'm doing.”
Ms Binnion had the support of the school community to ban phones. However she says that the same approach may not work for every school. “Every school has its own unique culture and what's right for one school may not be right for another.”