Grades improve when cell phones banned in schools, but expert says distraction not the problem

DENVER - New research about students and technology is getting the attention of schools across the U.S.

Texting, tweeting and advancing to the next level of Candy Crush--all while the teacher is talking-- is a recipe for slumping test scores, according to a new study from The London School Of Economics.

Researchers sampled 130,000 British students and saw a 6 percent increase in test scores when cell phones are banned. Underachievers saw an even bigger spike with grades improving by 14 percent.

Banning mobile phones increases productivity so much, that it's the equivalent to adding an extra hour of school every week, but some parents don't buy it.

Liz Willen is the editor of the Hechinger Report and a mother of students in New York City Public Schools, where a cell-phone ban was recently lifted.

"What this study is telling you is something we kind of already know: teenagers are distracted. If they have their cell phones, they're going to text their friends instead of listening to the teacher," said Willen. "But what if the teacher is engaging in a fascinating lesson that allows them to be actively involved in their own learning, utilizing their cell phone?"

More than 75 percent of U.S. teens have regular access to a smartphone, and the study authors claim grade increases are only seen when a full phone ban is in place.

Some parents say the need for phones in classrooms goes beyond science-- they need to reach their children. 

"Maybe they forgot a really important form and they're not allowed to go on a field trip," said Willen. "I don't want to chat with them in school, but I do need them to have a phone for their after-school activities."


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