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Netherlands takes a stand: No more smartwatches in classrooms

The debate continues about the appropriateness of students using smartwatches in educational settings. While some individuals see these devices as beneficial learning tools, others express concern that they could serve as distractions and potentially facilitate academic dishonesty. Different countries have adopted diverse strategies in addressing this matter.

The potential for cheating

While some dishonest pupils and students opt to use paper notes, many are caught with more high-tech solutions. Penalties include marking grades down or not accepting papers. Some pupils are even kicked off their courses. Each year, several thousand penalties are issued in the UK for such offences.

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But at the same time, teachers claim that many are getting away with it. Smartphones are officially forbidden in exam halls but that doesn’t mean they can’t be smuggled in. Many places also have specific rules about smartwatches, but again this is difficult to police. Plus some teachers are turning a blind eye to the practice. Then again there are others who are simply not up to speed with the latest in high-tech.

A popular cheating technique consists of saving pictures of notes to smartwatches and at exam time discreetly scrolling through them. Some opt for apps that can display text while other’s use Siri to read back notes to them.

A number of these devices are blatantly advertised on the internet as cheating assistants. You can even buy a “cheat pen” which allows you to conceal information inside! Then there are the many how-to-guides that can be found on YouTube and other video sites. Statistics show that in recent years, around a quarter of all students caught cheating used electronic gizmos such as smartphones, smartwatches, mini cameras and hidden ear-pieces.

Our view? A ban on smartwatches can only go so far. Teachers may have better luck in stamping out the unethical practice by writing better exams. The types of exams that go beyond simply repeating what you have been thought in class.

The Dutch classroom ban on tech devices

In a recent development, the Netherlands has decided to ban the use of mobile phones, tablets, and smartwatches in classrooms starting from 1 January 2024. The decision was made to limit distractions from social media, messaging, and other sites. The devices will only be permitted if they are needed for the lesson, for medical reasons, or for people with disabilities.

“Even though mobile phones are intertwined with our lives, they do not belong in the classroom,” said education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf.

“Students need to be able to concentrate and need to be given the opportunity to study well. Mobile phones are a disturbance, scientific research shows. We need to protect students against this.”

The implementation of the ban will be managed by the schools themselves, but laws will follow by the summer if results are not good enough.

This move by the Netherlands follows France’s decision to introduce a phone ban for primary and middle schools in 2018 to improve focus and prevent online bullying. Some studies have suggested that exam performance dips slightly when recreational phone use is allowed in class.

In contrast, a ban in UK schools has been suggested for a number of years by proponents but hasn’t come to fruition. Schools are currently left to establish their own policies and last year the government said further intervention wasn’t needed.

The debate on whether smartwatches and other devices should be allowed in classrooms continues. As technology continues to evolve and become more integrated into our daily lives, it will be interesting to see how these policies develop in the future.

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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