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To ban or not to ban – mobile devices in schools

 

Mobile devices in UK schools is an emotionally charged subject right now. There are so many opinions (some backed up by research and others enforced by strong feelings) that it can be difficult to know what the right answer is. The latest loud voice in the argument is Nick Gibb, schools minister and MP for the UK. He is calling for a ban on all mobile devices in classrooms.

This follows on the back of the French president enforcing his campaign promise to ban mobile phones in schools. This move in France has been hailed as “a law for the 21st century” by French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer.

Let’s not be so hasty

 

Gibbs’ argument seems to be largely made up of emotionally charged statements. “Every hour spent online and on a smartphone is an hour less talking to family, and it’s an hour less exercise and it’s an hour less sleep.”

Add to this the fact that children aren’t emotionally mature enough to deal with some of the content available online. Additionally, it’s important to look at the research that’s been done. Studies show that “smartphones can reduce the ability to think to a person’s full potential”.

Gibbs has plenty of support when it comes to banning mobiles devices in schools. A survey done in 2018 in the UK shows that “almost six in 10 (59 per cent) UK parents think students should not be allowed to carry their mobiles around the school grounds” according to The Independent.

However, a blanket ban on all mobile devices seems a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What about the access to all of the knowledge available online? What about teaching children to be responsible digital citizens? And is banning mobile devices really the right response to technology that is so much a part of our lives?

“Banning students from using smartphones is a 1950s response to a 2018 state of play”

 

We couldn’t have put it better than this statement from Joanne Orlando, a researcher in technology and learning at Western Sydney University. You can’t deny the fact that mobile technology isn’t going anywhere. It has become an intrinsic part of 21st century life. At Mobile Guardian, we believe that the key is to teach children how to incorporate the technology into their lives. A ban on devices turns them into a taboo that children can only have in supervised and rationed intervals. It makes these devices more enticing as something to be used in secret.

Many schools around the world are already using mobile devices in the classroom quite successfully. Just look at the stats from The Keyword on Chromebooks alone. “[M]ore than 25 million teachers and students are using Chromebooks for education globally and 30 million teachers and students are using Google Classroom, along with the 80 million using G Suite for Education”. That’s just one type of mobile device.

With the correct mobile device management (MDM) system in place, schools can monitor the use of smartphones and tablets. This makes them far safer in the hands of children, and allows these children the freedom to explore all the good things that the internet has to offer.

Preparing them for their future

 

It’s also important to remember that “regardless of any ban, students will continue to learn with their phones off-campus, later in life in their tertiary education, and in their professional and workplace learning,” says Matthew Kearney (Associate Professor, teacher education programme, University of Technology, Sydney). This is why it’s essential to teach children how to incorporate mobile devices into their everyday lives in a way that is safe and productive.

Don’t ban mobile devices in schools. Rather give children the power to explore and teach them skills for the future they are going to live in.

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