HANDPHONES IN SCHOOLS: Warning falls on deaf ears

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

IT was highlighted recently that the move to allow children to bring handphones to school is to provide a virtual learning environment so that students can use their gadgets to learn (“A ringing problem” — NST, July 29).

Wow, virtual learning is really the buzzword these days. Anything under the sun can be categorised as virtual learning, be it good or bad.

Then why bother teaching in the first place?

Do teachers now find that they have such a lot of time in the classroom that they require the virtual world to supplement lessons?

The proposal to allow students to bring handphones to school from next year should be explored thoroughly.

First, we should ask ourselves whether we are ready to allow our children to access the virtual world on their own.

Being an educator for more than 20 years, I cannot guarantee that virtual knowledge contains truth or fact.

As far as I know, virtual knowledge is often questionable, especially when it is from unknown sites or unreliable blogs.

I know for a fact that many university students access the virtual world for the wrong reasons. They use the Internet when they are pressed for time.

Allow me to relate my experience as a lecturer in a university where handphones are permitted.

My warning to students to switch off their handphones during lectures often falls on deaf ears.

When the handphone rings, it disrupts my lecture and flow of thought. Of course, they apologise for forgetting to switch it off. But then comes the next call from concerned parents checking on their children. And this goes on.

We are talking about 15 minutes of disruption in a 40-minute class. How will teachers get students to engage in deep learning?

Then, of course, we have well-off students who are likely to own sophisticated smartphones. How will this affect poor students who can’t even afford basic phones?

Moreover, when the lesson is not interesting enough, the students are likely to start texting and tweeting.

I am a mother of five boys and my third son, who is in Form Four, goes to a residential school that doesn’t allow handphones.

Students use the public phones to call their parents. And if there’s any emergency, parents can contact the school.

I don’t have any problem getting in touch with him, as he calls me once or twice a week.

Meanwhile, my fourth son is in Form One at Mara Junior Science College (MRSM) Serting, Negri Sembilan.

MRSM Serting permits handphones, but only basic ones for making calls.

He can use the handphone only in the hostel and manages to call me every evening.

As a mother, I have no problems with the policies of these two schools.

At the end of the day, this is not a matter of embracing technology. Here, we are talking about disciplining our children.

Associate Professor Wan Norliza Wan Mustapha, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam, Selangor

Read more: HANDPHONES IN SCHOOLS: Warning falls on deaf ears – Letters to the Editor – New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/handphones-in-schools-warning-falls-on-deaf-ears-1.122053#ixzz22uXtleYz