Does allowing children to bring their mobiles into school have the potential to offer educational advantages?
By Rob Eastment, Client Experience Manager at Firefly Learning
Technology is completely changing the way young people experience the world around them and it is vital that we teach them how to handle this responsibly.
Smartphones are something that virtually all of us use now. They give us instant access to the sum total of the world's knowledge in our pocket. Those who talk of banning smartphones from the classroom tend to focus on a few features - messaging, games - rather than considering their potential as a tool for learning and an aid for teachers.
While a teenager might be using a smartphone to message friends, listen to music without headphones or play a game, they may also be using it as a research tool, to help them better get to grips with a subject or even find information that they can use to challenge a teacher. This should be a teacher's dream - pupils able to perform on the spot research that enhances their understanding of a subject and increases the potential for debate and reasoned argument.
Removing mobile phones from the classroom therefore immediately removes an incredibly powerful educational resource. It also impedes new methods such as the 'flipped classroom', where learning is led by the pupils themselves, and the classroom becomes a place for discussing information and arguments that they have researched for themselves on their own devices.
Of course, the teacher should be the focal point of any classroom and we mustn’t let smartphones or anything else detract from that. Indiscriminate use of technology isn’t a sound way to approach lessons. Technology is simply a tool that gives teachers an alternative way to engage with their pupils and means there’s less need to rely on textbooks and the ‘chalk and talk’ method. A bad teacher can’t hide behind technology - if the use of tech in the classroom is uncontrolled, then the situation will get out of hand very quickly.
Banning smartphones from the classroom is dodging responsibility - we should be teaching children about everything in the world around us, not pretending it doesn’t exist. And if we’re not prepared to teach children how to get the best from technology in the classroom, we shouldn’t be surprised if they misuse it in the real world.