Smartphones, Learning and Wellbeing

There is no denying that we live in a technologically dependant world, and that technology has allowed us to increase our productivity, efficiency, connectivity, functionality and enjoy a variety of opportunities never thought possible. In a schooling context, it is this very technology that has enabled students to collaborate on global projects, share work, create dynamic multimedia presentations, source information, engage in civic action and solve complex problems.

In recent months, there has been a great deal of discussion in the media about the impact of smartphones on learning and wellbeing. The debates range from the amount of screen time on devices through to poor self-regulation, resulting in the use of smartphones being a distractor from school-related learning, physical activity and in some cases, high quality sleep.

At Ormiston, a small number of Years 5 and 6 girls bring mobile phones to school to assist with after school arrangements. These phones are locked away during the school day by their class teacher. At Senior School all students are permitted to bring mobile phones to school. Over the years, we have actively worked with Senior School students regarding appropriate use of their mobile phones, iPads and computers, as it is important for young people to develop self-management strategies. It has however, been concerning over recent years to see an increasing trend of the need for a number of students to engage constantly with their phone during the day.

A growing body of global research highlights the importance for schools to consider how best to teach students to self-regulate their technology use, both at school and home. We know that excessive screen time (including the use of smartphones) can have profoundly negative impacts on mental health, eye health, face-to-face social interactions, cognitive functioning and ultimately academic results.

In considering how best to approach the use of technology at CGGS, a group of staff led by Mrs Cathy Poyser and Ms Kath Woolcock have sought feedback and have been guided by parents, students and staff. We have coupled this with evidence-based research and observations, and ultimately this has led us to create a framework for technology use that is scaffolded from Years 7 – 12. The framework is based on the knowledge that technology (including the use of smartphones) has its place in modern society; but that we need to be more mindful of how relationships and social connections are nurtured, and how social skills are best developed by being present with each other and the environment.

During the next few weeks we will be sending home a communication to Senior School parents outlining this framework that we are implementing to enable our students to regulate and balance their time on devices at school. Key elements of the framework will include:

  • Designated ‘Device Free’ social communal areas in the school
  • For Years 7-10, the requirement to lock their phones away in lockers from 8.25am-3.25pm unless requested by a teacher for use in a specific subject
  • Students who require their device to work on Home Learning activities at lunchtime must go to the library to complete these tasks.

In having this conversation at school, we also encourage you to speak openly and honestly at home, about the impact technology has on your daily lives and to consider the guidelines that you, as a family, have in place. This may also extend to the expectations you place on each other to respond to phone calls and text messages throughout the day.

You may also be interested to note that the next Parent Education Seminar is titled, The Healthy Digital Diet. It will be presented by Dr Justin Coulson,  an author and leading parenting, relationships and wellbeing expert. Dr Coulson is an Honorary Fellow at the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, a consultant to the Federal Government’s office of the Children’s e-Safety Commissioner and has been an advisor to a number of leading organisations including Beyond Blue and the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.

Dr Coulson will be exploring the issues of screen time, social media and finding a healthy digital balance. The Seminar is on Tuesday 12 June from 7.00pm – 8.30pm in Level 2 of the Anne Feehan Building. You can book from the advertisement in this week’s, What’s On.

During the week, this issue was also discussed on the SBS program Insight, focussing on the topic, Screens at School.  Students, teachers, parents and experts presented different perspectives about screen time in general, and smartphones specifically. Students reported an increase in focus and engagement with peers inside and outside class when they didn’t have access to their devices.

I would like to thank Mrs Poyser and Ms Woolcock for their leadership in this important initiative. As we look to implement these guidelines over the course of the next few weeks, we will continue to consult, monitor, evaluate and modify our practices to ensure we are in line with what research highlights as best practice.

With best wishes

Debbie Dunwoody


Feature SEQTA Engage App

A better way to stay ‘Engaged’ with your child’s learning!

The SEQTA Engage App for Apple and Android can help ensure that you are kept in the loop with the social and academic life of the school. Be notified of upcoming assessments, academic feedback, upcoming events and school news, all with the convenience of a single tap. Pop-up notifications and fingerprint recognition (Apple devices) make connecting with the school convenient and simple.

SEQTA has been the school’s learning management system for the past 3 years. As you would be aware, SEQTA is an online platform that is accessed via the school’s website. We would like to draw your attention to the availability of a SEQTA Engage App that can be installed on your Apple or Android device.

The App can be downloaded from either the Apple or Google Play stores.

This App brings all the functionality of the SEQTA Engage website to your mobile device, in an easy to access and read format. If you own an Apple device with Touch ID you can activate this to avoid the need to enter your username and password each time. You can also enable ‘notifications’ so that you are alerted to upcoming assessments, results and Interim and Semester Reports.

An updated Engage handbook that covers the operation of both the SEQTA Engage App and the Engage website can be viewed by clicking HERE. This document also includes links to a number of instructional videos. Please note that both English and Chinese versions are available.

  • For Installation and Configuration (ENGLISH), click here
  • For Installation and Configuration (CHINESE), click here

Additional videos can also be found once you login to the Engage App or the website. These videos include information about:

  • Contacting teachers
  • Viewing your daughter’s timetable
  • Viewing upcoming assignments
  • Accessing feedback relating to completed tasks
  • Accessing academic reports

As new features are added, the list of instructional videos will be updated.

If you have any questions please contact the school, by emailing the Parent Helpdesk