Mobile phones in schools - ban them or embrace them?
Much is talked about the use of mobile phones in schools and some, including Michael Wilshaw—Ofsted chief inspector—think to ban them from schools universally would be a good move. Others agree with him and if you read the many comments on the major newspapers’ websites you would think that most of the country are in agreement.
I have thought about this. I worked in a school which in general banned children from bringing their phone to school and, if in exceptional circumstances they needed it for the journey to and from school, there was a complicated process of handing in the device and retrieving it at the end of the school day in time to catch public transport home. I am very glad that as far as I am concerned that kind of draconian rule is not needed in my school. We cannot be Luddite about this. Our girls know that there is a code of behaviour expected over the use of their mobile phone in school. They know that it is only to be used outside of lessons unless it is being used as part of the lesson —more about that later. That it should only be used for important contact during the school day. That it should never be used to bully or harass. That it should always be silent or switched off to avoid temptation during lessons.
The girls have been told that they are responsible for the care of their phone and of course there are strict rules governing phones and examinations that can never be broken.
What is important is that the girls are taught the positives of some applications; being able to photograph quickly notes on the board or something they see that will be useful for their art or drama, for example. My son used his phone to photograph his friend’s entire anthology of poems having lost his copy and it was quite effective. There are apps on some phones that aid revision and make learning fun regardless of age. I must admit to being addicted to one such app that asks you to form words from a collection of letters against the clock and I think it keeps my mind active and alert. I do enjoy the odd flutter with Angry Birds and argue it helps me think strategically and very definitely improves my dexterity. Some of the apps for small children teach them spelling and reading in a different and exciting way. I am sure you know all of this.
I don’t however, sit in meetings playing on my phone and this is an important point to make. I think it is important that we teach the girls to manage their devices. One day they may attend meetings and it isn’t acceptable to be constantly looking at your phone. It is in general rude to text in company. By the time some of your daughters embark on their careers the whole approach to mobile devices may be different and it is not in their interests to now be preventing them learning how to use them properly and the social niceties of the use of phones. There are applications that allow parents to read their children’s text messages but a word of warning—you may need your daughter’s help in getting it installed and anyway what does this app say about your trust of her? Also, in my experience, the technology savvy young person can get round such monitoring devices so you may not be surveying the whole picture anyway.
Mobile phones are here to stay and we must embrace what is good about them and make sure our children are taught how, and perhaps more importantly, when it is acceptable to use them.
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