Positive effect of banning mobile phones in schools - especially for 'disadvantaged' students
This looks like a robust bit of research (though I am not a statistician and would love to have confirmation from someone who is that the stats used and the way in which the outcomes have been presented are appropriate).
The overall message seems to be that access to mobile phones in secondary schools (in four cities in England) results in worse exam performance, particularly for less academically competent students - with the assumption being that the phones act as a distraction to school work.
Importantly, the paper states that
"these findings do not discount the possibility that mobile phones could be a useful learning tool if their use is properly structured. Our findings suggest that the presence of mobile phones in schools should not be ignored."
I would also ask whether exams (specifically GCSEs) provide a good indicator of the sorts of attributes, knowledge and competences that young people need in the 21st century and/or whether an alternative perspective might be that pedagogy in schools should be more engaging for the academically less competent (so that they are less likely to be distracted by access to mobile phones).
We do tend to blame students for not coping well with what school has to offer - rather than questioning the extent to which what is on offer is appropriate for every student.
Yes I agree that it looks at a very narrow set of outcomes and does not take other important aspects of learning into account, such as students engaging with learning agentically - which technology can potentially provide affordances for. I thought this particular research was interesting because it gained media attention in the UK and internationally (my mum emailed me an article reporting on it in the Danish press) and a headline such as 'banning mobile phones raises attainment' can make technology itself seem like the culprit rather than the pedagogy it is used within.
I'm also skeptical that we can 'control' for every social factor that can affect attainment. For example, how do you control for institutional racism? We know from other research that this is a significant reason for low attainment amount some disadvantaged students of colour. Deficit perceptions of disadvantaged students influence pedagogical practices and we probably need to challenge these in order for technology to be harnessed effectively in order to provide pedagogical affordances for students to exercise learner agency.