For one high school in NSW mobile phones have become a core part of learning, and it’s giggles that let teachers know if something’s awry.
In a recent speech Education Minister Dan Tehan called for a return of common sense to classrooms, saying there’s a time and place for technology in classrooms.
For Callaghan College that time and place is becoming more frequent.
About 60 per cent of the Year Seven to 10 students use their mobile phones as part of the school’s “bring your own device” policy, which is designed to ensure no student is left behind due to technology.
If a device can connect to the internet then it can be used for learning.
“The technology is the tool, but the teacher and the pedagogy of the teaching is still the most important thing,” principal Paul Young told AAP.
“Otherwise kids will just cut and paste and they won’t learn.”
Parents had complained to the school about the sheer number of learning accounts and passwords their children had to remember, prompting Callaghan College to find a more suitable software.
The school was the first public school in the state to use Canvas, a software it has now been using for two years.
Teachers can upload their course content for both parents and students alike, even receiving text message alerts when adjustments are made to classes.
The school’s Wi-Fi is supplied by the NSW Department of Education, leaving students unable to check social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube if they’re connected to the network.
Gone are the days of students losing their assignments in their backpacks, which has led to more heightened engagement.
“It has a flow-on for those kids, if they can achieve something, then they may just try a little bit harder next time and then they start to improve,” the school’s head of learning Stacy Lambert says.
“The confidence and smiles on their faces at the end because they actually have achieved something and they can move forward.”
Students are now performing better as they’re more engaged through technology, Ms Lambert says.
Trevor Furness from Instructure, the tech company behind Canvas, admits some schools are hesitant about giving the green light to more technology.
“In order to be effective in implementing new tools and transforming the classroom, educators must focus on the bigger picture and have a clear value proposition for improving teaching and learning,” he told AAP.
“Technology must be seen as an opportunity rather than a cost – the right tools, when harnessed correctly, presents schools with an opportunity to do things that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do.”
Ms Lambert says it’s clear when students are using their phones for something else.
“They have their phones in their lap, they’re looking down very very interested and they’re giggling,” she says.