Careful supervision needed to manage smartphone use in class

September, 24/2020 - 08:09

People up and down the country have endlessly discussed whether students should be allowed to use smartphones in class.

Illustration by Đỗ Thị Kiều Trinh

Nguyễn Hằng

People up and down the country have endlessly discussed whether students should be allowed to use smartphones in class.

The discussion came after Circular No 32/2020/TT-BGDĐT, issued by the Ministry of Education last week, allowed students of secondary and high school to use mobile phones in class for studying purposes under the supervision of teachers from November 1.

Some people think it is a good idea, while others are strongly against it.

Huỳnh Thanh Phú, principal of Nguyễn Du High School in District 10, HCM City, said it was a breakthrough. If students used their smartphones appropriately in a class, it would be an "electronic book" helping teachers solve many questions immediately instead of telling the students that the teachers would answer the questions in the next class.

Nguyễn Bích Trang, a mother of a 6th-grade student of Trần Văn Ơn Secondary School, District 1, HCM City, said her child's school had banned kids from using phones in class at the beginning of the year, so she was surprised to hear of the new regulation.

Trang did not think that it was necessary for students to bring smartphones to class to use modern methods of learning.

Đặng Diễm Linh, a mother of 7th-grader in Hà Nội, said she fiercely opposed the new regulation.

Linh said her two children were allowed to use smart devices to learn English at home, however, they still played games or watched videos if unsupervised.

She added that it would be hard for teachers to supervise children's smartphone use.

Sharing the same point of view, Trần Trung Hiếu, a teacher of Phan Bội Châu High School, in the central province of Nghệ An said: “Can the teacher supervise all the students in a class or not?”

“That is the most important thing,” he added, noting that it would be a tough task for teachers to stop students doing whatever they wanted with their phones in class.

Hoàng Ngọc Vinh, a member of the Advisory Group of the National Committee on Education and Training Reform in the 2016-21 period, said in an article with Tiền Phong (Vanguard) online newspaper that students would interact with each other in class less if they used mobile phones in class.

The abuse of smart devices also led to lazy thinking and the inability to think deeply as search tools are always available, he said.

Ministry responds

In response to the situation, Nguyễn Xuân Thành, head of the education ministry’s Secondary Education Department said the ministry unveiled the regulation to support students when they needed to find resources for their lessons with the permission of their teacher.

With the trend towards digital transformation in education, the education sector was encouraging teachers and students to apply information technology in teaching and learning, he said.

There are many resources online for learning and teaching and students in developed countries can learn in class while looking up information related to the lesson online, he said.

Additionally, under the circular, students were only allowed to use smartphones for learning purposes for a short time during class, not all the time, he said.

The regulation did not mean that the students could use their smartphones without supervision of their teacher, he said.

Moving forward

Vinh called for careful consideration before allowing students to use smartphones in class.

It would require consistent research on the amount of time students use their phones in class and the proportion of teachers able to guide students to use smartphones during class, he said.

"How the use of smartphones affects students' behaviour and personality needs to be clarified to get their parents’ consent," Vinh said.

According to Tô Thụy Diễm Quyên, director of of InnEdu STEAM Company, a company specialised in consulting and educational development, schools and teachers should find practical solutions to supervise students instead of banning smartphone use in class.

A ban would hinder education from adapting to the digital world, she said.

Personally, I think that applying information technology in teaching and learning is catching the trend in the digital age.

However, the education ministry needs to issue more specific guidelines to have smooth co-ordination between schools, parents, teachers and students so the implementation of the circular will be as effective as hoped.

The ministry should compile a set of documents to teach the students skills on how to appropriately use smartphones and how to protect their private information online. Last but not least, providing students warnings about excessive smartphone use that will cause them harm is very necessary.

This will help the students learn well in the modern era but avoid harm from excessive smartphone use. — VNS