The subject of banning smart phones from the classroom has been in the news again. There are arguments both for and against a blanket ban which has been called for by some.
Nick Gibb, minister for the Department for Education, takes the view that heads should ban smart phones from schools and classrooms and he would support them in doing that. In this article however, others feel that a blanket ban is not the answer and young people should be taught how to use them wisely for the purpose in hand.
Damian Hinds, the education secretary, believes that the decision should be left to individual heads who know their schools, pupils and community. He believes that an outright ban would not provide the answer to the complexity of mobile use in schools.
And it is an issue more complex than a first glance would suggest.
We might jump to the conclusion that youngsters are just using their phones in lessons irresponsibly. But smart technology for online research and support with learning is an integral part of contemporary education. Sadly, some schools have budgets so tight that a smart device for every pupil would be impossible and teachers have come to rely on the pupils having their own. However, there are immediately issues with this; like who has one and who doesn’t, whether learning should be dependent on parents being able to afford one or not, inevitable comparisons and the consequential potential for bullying, so it’s hardly ideal.
Health and safety is another aspect. Smart phones are used by certain pupils to monitor their health needs, (like glucose levels, for example) and for safety purposes (like parents keeping track of their youngsters as they journey to and from school).
Phones are no doubt an essential part of our everyday life and the internet part of education. The difficulty lies, when phones are in classrooms, in young people being able to restrict the use of them to what’s necessary and not be seduced by the many other appealing distractions, like social media or gaming, for instance. Another fear is the added opportunities for online bullying which is already a problem.
Some schools feel that banning phones and thereby restricting online use to computers provided by the school, would offer a better way of monitoring what children are doing online during school time. Teachers have no way of monitoring internet use on personal devices or the time to do so.
So an outright ban may solve some problems, but clearly has disadvantages, hence there are valid arguments for and against.
Flexibility may be the answer, and encouraging young people to have healthy online habits both in and out of the classroom, to learning how to manage their online time in balance with doing other things, studying, and engaging socially in the physical world. And the foundation of such habits, like many things, perhaps begins at home.
Perhaps you’d like to air your views on using smart phones in education in the comments below.