PUPILS should use their own smartphones and tablet computers during lessons despite growing fears over classroom disruption, according to Government experts.
The recommendation was made just months after a report on school behaviour found the use of mobiles had increased considerably in secondaries since 2009.
The Behaviour in Scottish Schools 2012 report had cited their use as a distracting influence, while secondary headteachers felt pupils using them against school policy "had the greatest negative impact on staff's experience at school".
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However, the final report of the Scottish Government's ICT Excellence Group said ensuring that pupils had access to the school intranet system – Glow – at all times would be vital to its success. "While part of this can be addressed through the provision of devices by schools, many young people will have their own smartphones, laptops and tablets," it states.
"Outwith the classroom, young people and teachers are accustomed to using such devices all the time to find out new information and share with their friends.
"Harnessing this through a sensible approach to 'bringing your own technology' will be important, in the current public financial climate, to ensuring Glow can be accessed appropriately."
The Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union welcomed the report, but said allowing pupils greater use of their own technology had to be carefully managed.
A spokesman said: "It is vital that schools have policies in place which make clear the boundaries for use of smartphones and other devices within the classroom.
"Misuse of these types of technology is a serious and growing problem for schools across Scotland, so their use must be carefully monitored.
"There can be, however, clear benefits to the use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices as educational tools both within the classroom and at home.
"Finding ways to better utilise technology can help to make learning more engaging and relevant to many young people who are already familiar and comfortable with these devices."
Iain Ellis, chairman of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said: "We welcome the recognition in this report that wi-fi is an essential learning tool.
"Our area National Parent Forum representatives have all been contacting their education directors to find out what is happening in their local authorities.
"A mixed picture is coming back. We really need to move forward quickly with this as we are restricting children's learning opportunities if we do not. Many parents will be surprised to discover that this is not already in place in schools."
Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "It is extremely important to me that schools can harness the power of technology for learning, keep pace with rapidly evolving developments and that we speak the language that young people speak online.
"I therefore warmly welcome the report, and my priority is not to lose momentum on this quality piece of work."
Professor Muffy Calder, chief scientific adviser for Scotland and the group's convener, said: "The task we were set was ambitious – to scope a long-term user-centred future for Glow and to imagine a future for the service that provides a seamless user experience and connectivity on the one hand, and an open range of tools on the other. I hope we have done that."