How mobile phones are disrupting teaching and learning in Africa May 22, 2016 12.12pm SAST Author –Gina Porter (Senior Research Fellow, Durham University) Mobile phones have become ubiquitous in Africa. Among younger users, basic phones are most common. But more pupils are accessing smartphones that can connect to the internet –and taking them along to school. […] Access to pornography as well as bullying and harassment through phones is widely reported. We have conducted a study of young people’s mobile phone use in Ghana,Malawi and South Africa. Our findings emphasise the central place that mobile phones occupy in many young people’s lives. Before the mobile phone arrived in Africa, few people had access to landlines. The mobile phone represents far more of a communication revolution in Africa than in richer countries. Children’s use of phonesSome pupils, particularly in South Africa, use their phones to access sites like Master Maths for help with homework. But the positive benefits mostly seem to be limited to mundane tasks such as contacting friends to check on homework or using the phone as a calculator. Much information from pupils and teachers was more negative: academic performance affected by disrupted classes –due to teachers as well as pupils using their phones –disrupted sleep because of cheap night calls, time wasted on prolonged sessions on social network sites, and harassment, bullying and pornography. Class disruption from pupils’ phones used to be mostly from ring tones when calls were received. . Now, for those with smartphones, messaging on WhatsApp or checking Facebook have become common classroom activities. Teachers’ phone use in class can be equally disruptive, as some teachers admitted. A call comes in, or they make a call, and whether they step outside or take the call in class, the end result is that the lesson is interrupted and –as more than one told us –“You forget what you are going to deliver.”In Malawi, 60% of enrolled pupils said they had seen their teacher using a phone in lesson time during the week before the survey. The corresponding figure for Ghana was 66% and for South Africa 88%. Pupils are rarely given such an opportunity to comment on the behaviour of those in authority over them but even if not all were truthful, these figures are of concern. Many head teachers also spoke about the problem of teacher phone use, saying they found it difficult to regulate.