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Some UK schools ditching traditional clocks because teens can't tell time, stressing out on exams

A shot of the Big Ben clock tower in London. Some schools in the U.K. are ditching traditional clocks from examination halls because teenagers can't tell the time. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Some schools in the United Kingdom are ditching traditional clocks from examination halls because teenagers can't tell the time, a head teachers’ union told the Telegraph.

“The current generation aren’t as good at reading the traditional clock face as older generations,” Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders, told the paper. “They are used to seeing a digital representation of time on their phone, on their computer. Nearly everything they’ve got is digital, so youngsters are just exposed to time being given digitally everywhere.”

So teachers are installing digital devices after students complained of struggling to read correct times on analog clocks, the Telegraph reported.

Trobe added to the paper that teachers want to create an exam environment where everything is "easy and straightforward as possible” — and that traditional clocks in the rooms could be causing students unnecessary stress.

“You don’t want them to put their hand up to ask how much time is left,” he told the Telegraph. "There is actually a big advantage in using digital clocks in exam rooms because it is much less easy to mistake a time on a digital clock when you are working against time.”

What are other educators saying?

Stephanie Keenan, head of English at Ruislip High School in London, told the paper her school has installed digital clocks in the exam hall after determining that many students can't tell the time on analog clocks.

Another educator, Cheryl Quine, added to the Telegraph that her school noticed students are having difficulty telling the time “when some couldn’t read the exam room clock."

It's been assumed that teens should be able to read traditional clock faces, Trobe told the paper, but that often doesn't come to pass.

“It may be a little sad if youngsters coming through aren’t able to tell the time on clock faces,” he added to the Telegraph. “One hopes that we will be teaching youngsters to read clocks, however, we can see the benefit of digital clocks in exam rooms.”

What does an occupational therapist have to say about technology's impact on kids' development?

Sally Payne, a senior pediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust, warned that children are finding it increasingly difficult to hold pens and pencils due to excessive technology use, the paper said.

“To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers," she told the Telegraph. "Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills."

However, Payne added to the paper that it's "easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes. Because of this, they’re not developing the underlying foundation skills they need to grip and hold a pencil."

One last thing…
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