In the age of Fortnite, most of what we do is now on a screen. Whether it's checking Twitter, watching Netflix, or even doing homework. And that's had quite a drastic effect in the United Kingdom, where teachers are now installing digital clocks in exam rooms because their children are having a difficult time reading analogue clocks and knowing how much time they have left during stressful exams.
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told The Telegraph that students below the age of 18 have become accustomed to using digital devices, and as such, a digital clock.
“The current generation aren’t as good at reading the traditional clock face as older generations,” he said.
“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.”
Trobe, a former principal, said that teachers want their kids to be as relaxed as possible in an exam setting. And a traditional clock could add unnecessary stress. Schools are trying to make everything as “easy and straightforward as possible,” he added.
“You don’t want them to put their hand up to ask how much time is left," Trobe explained.
“Schools will inevitably be doing their best to make young children feel as relaxed as the can be. 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.”
Stephanie Keenan, head of English at Ruislip High School in north-west London, told The Telegraph that her school was one of many to switch their clocks. Cheryl Quine, a head of department at Cockermouth School and chair of the West Cumbria Network, said they did the same “when some [students] couldn’t read the exam room clock."
Although reading clock faces is taught in school, Trobe said that many students still don't fully understand them by the time they reach high school.
“It may be a little sad if youngsters coming through aren’t able to tell the time on clock faces,” he said.
“One hopes that we will be teaching youngsters to read clocks, however we can see the benefit of digital clocks in exam rooms.”
In 2018, Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust, warned that children are finding it harder and harder to hold pens and pencils as a result of technology.
“To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills," she warned.
"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."