Mobile phones in schools (again!)

music-playlist-2The issue of mobile phones in schools is once again raging with various schools deciding to ban mobile phones.   On social media teachers and school leaders are split.   Some occupy the ban all mobiles camp citing mobile phones as a distraction and also concerns around student mental health, addition and screen time in relation to overuse of social media.   Others support the use of mobile phones in classrooms as it provides teachers with an additional tool which can be used to engage students in their learning opening up new opportunities and learning experiences not available without mobile phones.  It also helps in preparing students for the real world where they will invariably need to manage their own phone use.

I have repeatedly stated my view, in that I am for allowing mobile phones in schools.    In the real world we all have phones vying for our attention.   Some adults manage this potential distraction and even addiction better than others.    It is due to this I feel we have a duty to work with students and help them learn to manage their mobile devices and their online presence along with the potential resultant distractions.   If teachers don’t spend time working with students to discuss and consider these issues then who will?

The one question that I would like to raise via this post is, has anyone thought of discussing this issue with students?     We are hearing plenty for educational bodies and individual school leaders and teachers but what about the students.    Have we discussed with them the concerns that those who wish to have mobile phones banned have?    Have we discussed with them the potential positive benefits of having mobile devices in school and in classrooms, along with the potential ways that such devices could be used?    Have we asked them what they think?    Have we discussed creating an agreement for the proper use of mobile devices in school, developed collaboratively between staff and students?

To me banning something is seldom effective.   Work arounds are created making bans ineffective.  Students might simply get sneaky, trying to use their devices when their teachers aren’t looking.   Some students may develop more creative solutions to get around bans.    I suspect the Smart watch may be one such work around.   The students phone would be silent and out of sight however their Smart watch would allow students to continue interacting with social media without ever having to get their phone out and get caught for having it.    Are we going to start banning watches next?

The argument regarding mobile phones in schools continues to draw polar views, as is almost always the case on social media.    The answer, in my eyes, as is the case in most things in the “real” world, lies between the polar opposite views.   For me the answer is to allow mobile phones but to discuss their proper use and the rules around this with the students.    An agreement has to be developed.   Outside of what is agreed, where students cannot use them responsibly then maybe a ban is appropriate, however I would hope in most schools and with most students, that a shared agreement can be reached and both students and teachers can benefit from having another tool available to use in lessons and around school.

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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