Mobiles in schools: ban them or use them? (updated)

24 May

Update:  24 May 2016

“Should we ban smart phones for children?” (BBC Radio 4: PM).  A former adviser to David Cameron wants under 16-year-olds to be banned from having smart phones and tablet computers.

Update: 14 September 2015

According to media reports: ” Mobile phones and iPads could be banned from classrooms” as Tom Bennett, the Department for Education ‘discipline tsar’ begins “a wide-ranging inquiry into how schools can improve bad behaviour among children, including the use of smartphones and tablets”  (Daily Telegraph):

“More than 90 per cent of teenagers have mobile phones, but a recent study by the London School of Economics claimed schools where they were banned saw test scores rise by an average of 6 per cent.” 

Announcing Tom Bennett’s review, the DfE commented that:

Appropriately used, technology can offer opportunities to enhance the educational experience of pupils – devices such as tablets and smartphones are used by many schools to aid teaching. Teachers, however, have reported that the growing number of children bringing personal devices into class is hindering teaching and leading to disruption.”

In Scotland, a Government working group found that: 

“Used responsibly, mobile devices such as phones, tablets etc can enhance learning and teaching.” (See below.)

What do you think? Do let us know your views…

Update: 29 September 2014

Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has repeated his call for pupils to be banned from bringing  mobile phones to school. In an article in The Sunday Mail, he also advised parents to stop their children having a mobile phone until they were 13 and removing televisions and computers from their bedroomsHe said:  

Mobile phone technology is part of the issue of low-level disruption in classrooms. Social media is part of the problem…it seems sensible to ban mobile phones from schools, then you don’t get kids texting each other in class.”

 In Scotland, however, a Government working group has produced guidance on the use of mobile technology in schools:

“Mobile technology is an integral part of the lives of children and young people across Scotland, with many bringing their own mobile devices into school.

Used responsibly, mobile devices such as phones, tablets etc can enhance learning and teaching, communication and social experiences and can bring a sense of security to parents as their children enjoy more independent activities, such as walking to and from school unsupervised.

“Such devices can also be powerful tools when utilised by teachers to enhance learning and teaching.”

Also in Scotland, Gillian Campbell-Thow, Teacher of the Year at the Scottish Education Awards 2014, set up a Twitter account (@allsaintslingo) to showcase pupils’ achievements and remind them about homework assignments.

What do you think? Do let us know your views…

10 May 2012:

Last week, author Sir Terry Pratchett claimed that “texting, Tweeting and social media websites are damaging children’s ability to communicate”.

Now Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has said that disruption during lesson times is often down to the use of mobiles.

(Before the advent of mobile phones, “mobiles” were turning objects attached to the ceiling but that’s another story!)

In an interview reported in various newspapers in England with headlines such as “Ban mobiles from schools” the former headteacher said that schools risked being “marked down” for failing to tackle persistent interruptions by pupils such as text messaging, receiving calls and surfing the web on their phones.

He is reported as commenting that apart from the distracting effect of a mobile going off in a lesson, handsets could be used for cyber-bullying and accessing online pornography.

Referring to his decision to ban mobiles while head of the Mossbourne Academy in London, Sir Michael said:

“It certainly cut out all that nonsense that you have in schools of these things being brought in and then a mobile phone going off in a lesson.

“The outrageous behaviour that you occasionally see in all schools is serious, but I think the bigger issue is that low-level disruption which takes place which stops children learning effectively. Teachers and head teachers have got to stamp that out.”

A Department for Education spokesman commented:

“Parents should take responsibility for whether or not their children have phones in the first place.

“It is up to individual head teachers to decide if and when mobile phones should be used by pupils in school.”

Clearly misuse of mobiles can be a serious distraction as well leading to cyber-bullying, theft, peer pressure and envy. A simple ban avoids such problems. However, mobiles can also be used as a learning aid.

Comments posted on Twitter, include:

“Sir Michael Wilshaw now wants to ban mobile phones in schools which, when well used, can enrich learning and help engage young learners!” (Chris Edwards, “learner, teacher, adviser, coach, speaker, ex.Ofsted inspector, ex. Director of Education, ex. Chief Executive of Education Leeds”.)

“Michael Wilshaw has got it wrong. You should embrace the educational opportunities offered by mobile technology, not ban phones from schools.” (Sophie Corry, “Commissioning Editor in the publishing department of the IB”.)

If that’s the case, shouldn’t the school hand out its own equipment so all the pupils are using the same, distraction-free tools?

There’s also the health aspect. Following a comprehensive review on mobile phone technologies, The Health Protection Agency said that it was not changing its advice about mobile phone use by children.

The experts said more work was needed on the effect of radio frequency fields on brain activity, and on the possible association with behavioural problems in children. They also called for more investigation into the effects of new technology which emits radio frequency, such as smart meters in homes and airport security scanners.

However, the HPA, did say that:

“As this is a relatively new technology, the HPA will continue to advise a precautionary approach,” said Dr John Cooper, director of the HPA’s centre for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards.

“The HPA recommends that excessive use of mobile phones by children should be discouraged.”

Do let us know your thoughts
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8 Responses to “Mobiles in schools: ban them or use them? (updated)”

  1. Alison Taylor 15. Sep, 2015 at 5:35 pm #
    Is education just about ‘Test Scores’? Not in my mind or the principles of Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland.
    Remember the great access that mobile technology can supply especially to pupils with disabilities or additional support needs.
    It is not about banning mobile technology devices but having sensible and modern (not draconian) guidance on managing them within schools for both students and staff.
    I say hail to the 21st century and technology.

  2. Catherine Clayton 06. Jun, 2016 at 9:16 pm #

    The web offers students powerful access to a vast array of human culture. But using mobile devices to access that array make it particularly hard for parents and schools to keep students safe. The current environment places the onus on schools and parents to keep children and young people safe rather than asking society as a whole to adopt practices which protect the vulnerable. The rate of technological development of mobiles means that it is very difficult to parents, schools and young people to stay up to date with the risks. Because of their portability and small screens it is hard for parents to see what mobiles are used for and for how long. Some parents have noted with concern the addictive nature of mobiles for some young people.

    By using mobile devices and setting homework that depends on them, schools make it harder for parents to manage safe access to the web. Unless there is a move to make the whole of society responsible for safety on the web, school should discourage mobile device use.

  3. Richard Fraser 15. Jul, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    New research on schools texting parents:

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