Connected teachers in a disconnected classroom

Two interesting surveys taken by teachers in France were published in the past few weeks. The MGEN survey showed that 1 out of 4 French teachers are under 35, that 76% have a Facebook account and 85% are connected to it at least once a day. Young teachers are among the most connected social groups in the French population.  One of the most interesting findings of a survey taken by 15,000 teachers by the French association of textbook publishers, Savoir Livre, was that more mature teachers were making more use of digital textbooks in the classroom. It also reveals that French classrooms remain largely disconnected due to lack of broadband infrastructure and digital resources.

On one hand, a growing number of teachers get digital in their daily lives at school (but not in the classroom), and on the other hand the most mature ones (with more than 10 years of experience) use digital resources in the classroom. These diverging trends are interesting as they may reveal a gap between the way teachers view digital practices for their own use and for use in the classroom. The younger teachers will consider digital tools for private use and not for classroom practice. This may be linked to another result of the Savoir Livre survey – the lack of specific teachers’ training on digital practices. A teacher that goes on Facebook is not necessarily a trained teacher!

School remains a disconnected place where teachers use smartphones and connect to Facebook, and prevent students from doing it. School is, in fact, the only place where young people can’t freely exercise their digital abilities. “Smartphones have to be turned off”.

© 2013

© 2013

There are good reasons for schools to ban phones in classrooms. Students may text with the phones, go on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and disengage from what they are supposed to be doing and listening to in the classroom. Stéphane Cassereau, director of the IRT in Nantes, writes about this “smartphone plague” in his blog. He also comments on the paradox of having teachers banning smartphones in class while using them during teachers’ meetings!

For sure, smartphones can have an undesired effect in the classroom, but no more than a computer or a tablet. Jody Passanisi and Shara Peters write an interesting article about it in Education Week, and argue that the paradoxical attitude of teachers about smartphones is that “the smartphone carries with it the burden of the education community’s anxiety about technology”.

Our Open Education Challenge entrepreneurs are developing smartphone applications for use in the classroom that will contribute to this debate and hopefully reduce teachers’ anxiety about technology.

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