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Handphone use can be a nightmare for the teachers
Published on: Sunday, April 29, 2018

By SR2
THE recent ban on mobile phone usage in class has revived the debate on the relevance or otherwise of the exercise.

While some argue that the use of mobile phones is a necessary evil, others seem to welcome the ban and expect it to end the miseries they face.

The phrase “use of mobile phones” projects an image of teachers leisurely engaged in conversation or social media interactions in the classroom, neglecting their charges in the process.

But there are some useful aspects of mobile phones for the teaching fraternity and they can play an integral part in the teaching and learning process.

In most schools, attendance is recorded online and teachers are required to submit the details through apps like WhatsApp or Telegram to the person in charge, who will then transfer them to the online forms.

So the first task for a teacher as she enters a class is to provide a detailed record of the attendance.

As truancy during school hours is rampant in many schools, this is also recorded and shared via such apps while a teacher is in class. Absence of a student during class hours will not be ignored by a teacher.

If standard operating procedures (SOP) are followed, a teacher needs to ensure that the missing student is located and be presented in class safe and sound. Alerts on absent students are usually made through such apps in an attempt to trace them.

In some schools, the “QR code” is used to monitor the movement of students. Teachers are required to scan and fill in the relevant information online before granting permission for a student to leave the class.

Precious time is wasted whenever a teacher is engaged in such tedious jobs and the lesson is disrupted too.

Sharing of almost all information is done through mobile phones these days. With the mounting demand for evidence for every single programme and activity undertaken, teachers are constantly pressured to have their reports, complete with pictures, communicated via the apps instantly. The faster their reports are shared, the more efficient the teacher is seen to be.

Summoning a teacher to the office is also done through these apps. Teaching is often interrupted by calls and messages (from the administration) which usually demand immediate action and ignoring them is seen as an act of rebellion.

Besides this, it is also compulsory for teachers to be members of groups created on the whims and fancies of the administrators. At any given time, a teacher is forced to be a member of numerous groups and, trust me, membership is not by choice. Some of these groups are unbelievably active with messages exchanged as early as 5am (weekends included)!

At one end, teachers are expected to use the gadgets in their teaching in line with the Education Ministry’s aspiration to create 21st century classrooms where devices, such as mobile phones, are used as valuable teaching aids. On the other, we have individuals who are up in arms against the use of such devices, calling for a total ban.

Somewhere in between these two groups are those who blatantly abuse the mobile phones by implementing insane rules. Ironically, those which practise the mobile phone/gadgets culture are often glorified as exemplary schools.

Teachers are once again caught between the internal demands of the school and the Education Ministry’s contradictory and confusing rules. It’s the case of damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

For now, let’s wait for the enlightened to deliberate and decide.

For the record, the Education Ministry gives teachers nationwide smartphones and tablets free of charge.

SR2

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