Mobile phones in schools: Again?

We have just been through a period in history where the technology in our schools has suddenly became critical to continuing teaching and learning.   And yet, we now are once again contemplating banning some personal technology, in the form of students phones, in schools.   How can this be the case?

Before I go any further let me acknowledge that schools operate in vastly different contexts across the world and even within the UK.    As such all I can offer is a general viewpoint based on the schools I have worked upon.   I will therefore accept that there are contexts where it is totally appropriate and advisable to ban student mobile phones.   I suspect the most common reasoning is likely to be due to challenging student behaviour.     I do not however accept that banning mobile phones is the correct approach for all or even most schools. 

So, what are my reasons for this view:

Digital Citizenship

We wish to develop our students as digital citizens ready to live in an increasingly digital world.    In our digital world the mobile phone and other mobile devices, plus the apps that run on them are becoming more important.   As such we need to work with students to understand how to best use mobile phones and also how to use them safely and responsibly.    If we don’t tackle this in schools then we leave it to chance that students will be able to manage their mobile technology use themselves.

Digital skills and familiarity

The pandemic required us to quickly pivot to online teaching and learning.   For those schools which were already using technology widely in face to face lessons, this was easier than it was for those schools who were teaching in a more “traditional” and technology-less manner.    If we accept that online teaching and learning may happen in future, whether due to a pandemic or maybe just a snow day, then we need to get students used to using technology across the curriculum and their studies.  Using mobile phones constructively in lessons helps towards this, whereas banning mobile phones removes a potentially beneficial technology from the classroom.

Cyber Security

One of the key security features to keep online services safe is the use of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).   This is something we need to be applying to our school services including student accounts, plus something we need to encourage students to enable for their personal accounts.   Mobile phones as the second factor are key to this.   Banning mobile phones means we cannot enforce and encourage MFA use, thereby making our school systems and our students less secure.


As I said, I understand that contexts exist where banning mobile phones might be acceptable and even the best solution.   I don’t however believe this to be an approach which should be applied to all.   I very much believe that school leaders are the best people to judge their own schools context and the approach they wish to take towards technology use and the use or not of student mobile phones within school.

My view is that student mobile phones are a technological swiss army knife of tools.   With them students can search for information, record key learning from lessons, explore new worlds and many other things.   They are also likely to play a key part in students lives beyond school and therefore it is important we start developing the relevant skills and understanding as to their positive use, starting in schools, starting now.   Mobile phones, with their biometric authentication, combined with MFA, also help to make students digital existence more secure.

Given all that has happened over the last year or so, and the critical part that technology played plus the issues around access to appropriate student devices, I find it strange that we are still discussing a blanket ban of mobile phones, a technology device, from schools.    We should be seeking to make more and better use of technology in schools not banning it.


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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