Australian school teachers feel powerless in the face of a smartphone culture which is negatively impacting student results.
That's according to a Dell study, which has found that up to 70 per cent of Australian students are browsing social media sites in class, rather than focusing on the lesson, hampering their grades in the process.
The study also showed that just more than half (53 per cent) of teachers know it is happening, but feel they are powerless to control it, suggesting that new automated measures need to be introduced.
More than 80 per cent of students who participated in the survey agree that technology is having a positive impact in their schooling.
However, with more and more applications and smart devices entering the learning environment, the risk that students are being distracted increases.
Dell Software managing director A/NZ, Ian Hodge, said technology and access to the internet have revolutionised and improved the way that students learn.
"However, by enabling students to have access to the internet, they are finding new ways to distract themselves in class," he said.
"Students are now actively switching off from lessons and on to Instagram,” says Ian Hodge, managing director, Dell Software Australia and New Zealand.
This is a sentiment shared by teachers, with more than 90 per cent seeing social media as a major disruption to their lessons.
Teachers are having to ‘police’ students and identify those who may be looking for an online distraction.
Out of the 80 per cent of teachers actively looking to stop students accessing social media sites, only 45 per cent succeed.
Although students and teachers are at loggerheads on this topic, they do agree on one point – accessing social media during class time is having a negative impact on grades.
Almost 90 per cent of students and 95 per cent of teachers in the survey agree that students would achieve better grades if access to social media or non-educational sites were blocked during lessons.
Hodge said schools had a responsibility to ensure that technology isn’t being abused or having a negative impact on their classrooms.
“IT can greatly support teachers and students, but with growing class sizes and larger curricula, it is becoming impossible for teachers to keep on top of every student,” he said.
The majority of surveyed teachers (71 per cent) do believe school IT security systems are good at blocking applications.
However, it is clear from the study that there is a disconnect between what teachers think and what students do.
Hodge said IT should be an enabler, whether it be in a school or business.
"During lesson time, students should only be able to access productive applications that help them learn,” he said.
“Next-Generation Firewalls can help IT departments block social applications – like Facebook and Twitter – during these times, and make them available again during breaks, putting the power back into the teachers’ hands.”
Lowanna College ICT manager, Matt Robinson, has attempted to address the issue first hand, following a program developed by the Victorian government providing students with laptops.
“We needed to ensure the laptops were going to obviously benefit the students and staff, and not just put laptops in their hands and open up new distractions,” he said.
“We looked to create a system that ensured the machines performed at their best and were free of unauthorised software.
"With this new system, we put our own software image onto students’ laptops and provide a software-as-a-service tool to give them access to applications that will help with their education."
In-built application intelligence and control within next-generation firewalls allow IT administrators to easily create bandwidth management policies based on logical, pre-defined categories (such as social media or gaming), individual applications, or even users and groups.
As new applications are created, new signatures are pushed to the firewalls and the appropriate policies are automatically updated without IT spending time and effort to update rules and application objects.
In addition, IT administrators can use granular application-based policy to restrict or block the transfer of specific files and documents, prioritise or throttle bandwidth, and deny access to internal or external websites.