Mobiles in Schools

In secondary schools today, few issues are likely to generate more heat and angst than those that relate to mobile phones. The ‘right approach’ is as fought over in schools as it is in many homes.

At one extreme are those who simply say mobile phones have no place in schools and pupils should be banned from bringing them to school. This can get reactions and kick back from both students and parents. It also, all too often, brings an encouragement to subterfuge and dishonesty as students work to find ways to get around the strict rules.

The premise for such arguments is students can’t be trusted and have inadequate self-control. Also, it says that the mobile phone has nothing (or little of benefit) to offer to the learning process in school and the downside is distraction and disengagement from the learning process.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe children should have full freedom to carry phones in school. Such approaches usually emphasise on expectations of appropriate mobile phone etiquette, common-sense and responsibility, rather than strict rules around phones.

The starting point for those at this end of the spectrum is high expectations of students, their ability to acquire the skills to master their own phone use responsibly and to do what’s right in their own best interests for effective use of their learning time in school. Also, there’s a strong belief that whether we like or not these children are going to live and grow in an environment where the mobile phone is so ubiquitous, so embedded that the process of learning to control the phone needs to start as early as possible.

There are, of course, many shades of perspective in between these two extremes. However, if there’s one thing that is common in my experience, it’s that when you talk with people they struggle to determine whether their approach is right. Are they making the best decision? We’re all fumbling in the dark on this one a bit.

The video above shows one perspective – a scheme that has moved from theatres and concert venues to schools. In many ways this solution comes from the ‘they can’t be trusted’ mindset. Allowed to carry their own phones through the day children won’t engage effectively with their peers, they will undermine their own ability to build effective interpersonal skills. When we think about it, the reason performers found this solution appealing was because they were offended by audiences’ divided attention, and also that they wanted to prevent recordings being circulated freely to others. It could be argued that educators are in the business of sharing knowledge, and therefore should not be taking steps that limit the spread (if they really believed students might circulate recordings of their lectures!) or that educators should want to create learning experiences that hold students’ attention, are engaging and don’t fear distraction by phones.

I’m very interested to know what others think on this. Is the mobile phone, and particularly social networking so pervasive and addicting that personal discipline cannot be the way forward for children? Are these actually bigger issues for adults who are digital immigrants than for the digital natives for whom choices about how to keep the phone in perspective in their lives is a part of growing up?

It could be argued that, in the face of learning experiences that are boring and uninspiring, early generations of children didn’t need mobile phones to be distracted. From solitary pursuits like gazing out of the window or doodling, to participatory processes of cheeky note passing, hangman or battleships my own school days saw plenty of ways to be distracted long before the arrival of mobile phones.

So, are you a hard-liner, a soft touch advocate or something in between? Please share your thoughts.

 

3 Responses

  1. A conundrum. No easy one size fits all solutions. Digital discipline has been proving to be a big problems across the board-all age groups, digital natives included. Given the inroads that tech has made into our lives, there is good reason to argue that atleast some part of the day in school can be spent in gazing out of the window(sadly at concrete jungles, rather than the green meadows so evocatively portrayed by Wordsworth and his ilk), doodling, making paper airplanes(fine and gross motor skills anyone?!)
    There’s a lot to be said for: I am bored and I have nothing to do- creativity is often the last refuge of boredom. Somewhere in the doodles, lies an art masterpiece maybe, and who knows, maybe Wordsworths iconic daffodils may have a sequel , from someone who was gazing out of a window, bored by the monotony of a teacher’s prattle.
    An outright ban will of course result in the usual subterfuge.
    A safe depository in the school -from where they can collect their phones at the end of the day-seems a workable solution.
    Thanks & Regards
    Anuradha Kurup
    Teacher Senior School
    Aravali Campus
    The Shri Ram School
    ________________________________

  2. A conundrum. No easy one size fits all solutions. Digital discipline has been proving to be a big problems across the board-all age groups, digital natives included. Given the inroads that tech has made into our lives, there is good reason to argue that atleast some part of the day in school can be spent in gazing out of the window(sadly at concrete jungles, rather than the green meadows so evocatively portrayed by Wordsworth and his ilk), doodling, making paper airplanes(fine and gross motor skills anyone?!)
    There’s a lot to be said for: I am bored and I have nothing to do- creativity is often the last refuge of boredom. Somewhere in the doodles, lies an art masterpiece maybe, and who knows, maybe Wordsworths iconic daffodils may have a sequel , from someone who was gazing out of a window, bored by the monotony of a teacher’s prattle.
    An outright ban will of course result in the usual subterfuge.
    A safe depository in the school -from where they can collect their phones at the end of the day-seems a workable solution.

  3. Thank you for this great post, I really enjoyed reading it! I am currently a student and I just published a post on my blog about why I think mobile phones should be banned in schools. It would be great if you could check it out and let me know your thoughts!

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