Mobile phones in schools?

Tech Tuesday
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For a brief flurry, a story on the BBC website lit up my Twitter feed. It was about children using mobile phones at school and hooked us in with the headline  ‘Half of parents want mobile phones banned in schools’. You can read the article here. Of course, half don’t and so once again another unresolvable issue is about to kick off.

Before we get too excited though, the premise of the article raises more questions than it answers, such as:

  • If parents don’t want their children to have mobile phones at school then why do they let them take them?
  • Where can the line be drawn between school and parental responsibility?
  • Are the parents happy for the children to have the phones outside school and up to the gate? If so what should the children do with the phones once they arrive?
  • How will such a ban be enforced and what should be the consequences if a child is in possession of a phone?
  • Etc.

Then there is the issue of phone envy. Is this just another added pressure on parents to keep up with the latest fad that highlights existing income inequality among them?

Like all simplistic problems, the resolution is much more complicated. It is much more likely that the parents are happy for their child to take a phone to school but are unhappy if they use it in a way that disrupts their studies. This wouldn’t make such a good headline yet it is the tool that gets the blame rather than the behaviour of the students, parents and teachers. 

We are living in a technical age where digital skills are increasingly important. The ability to source information and apply it in context is fundamental to the way that today’s children will work in later life. Tools, such as phones and computers are among the ways that we investigate the world today and banning them outright will be counterproductive and won’t work.

A far better approach would be to work with the pupils to understand when it is appropriate and  correct to use the phone and when not. Indeed this may be a useful lesson in itself as they will face the same issues when they are in employment. A set of guiding principles is a better approach than a ban.

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