LBO Jan 2018
Mobile phones – merely useful or simply indispensable? This question tends to divide us and often along the lines of age. I understand my phone as an amazing piece of technology that I wonder at every time I use it – and that’s not too often. Others seem to see it as an extension of themselves, something so integral to their life that they quite literally cannot bear to be without it.
Whether at work or in school then this can cause a problem. Do we accommodate this all-pervasive tool for communication, information and entertainment or do we determine that for a period of time in the working day we focus on our work without the distraction of our mobile device? If the former, how do we ensure it is not an unhelpful distraction? If the latter, how do we enforce this? These are bigger questions than they may seem first off.
In primary schools this does not appear to be a big issue but it can be in secondaries. In many there is a complete ban. No mobile phones are permitted. In some this comprises a blanket ban whereby a mobile phone that is seen at any time during the school day is confiscated. In others they may be permitted on the way to or from school or at break-times but not in lessons. Once the waters are muddied of course enforcement of the rules may become less straightforward.
Going back to the beginning, why might we feel that a mobile-phone-free school is a good idea? Research just published estimated that pupils in schools without mobile phones made 7% better progress than those in schools that permitted them. Just how these schools were defined is not clear but the resulting headlines made the point and seems to tap into a wider, more general unease about young people and mobile phone use.
Is there a contrary view though? In 2018 do we want school to be so divorced from the rest of our lives that something as basic as a mobile phone is banned? And cannot the mobile phone be a useful tool to actually aid learning? The smart phone is after all an amazing hand-held device with the instant facility for photographing images, recording music, scanning QR codes and researching or checking facts. Can we not find a way to utilise this versatile, personalised, mobile learning tool while limiting its capacity to distract? Here is one challenge at least for the New Year.