What is your informed opinion about banning mobile phones and other digital devices in schools?
To ban mobile, digital devices in schools is to deny the future of 21st-century learning and contemporary education.
We have reached a point in the digital age where mobile technologies are ubiquitous, contributing to the rise of informal learning. Students can access information anytime, anywhere and the way they share, create and communicate has fundamentally changed. The ‘technology’ of mobile phones and digital devices has disappeared as they become more prevalent in our students lives. If we are to make education relevant, meaningful and authentic to student lives and develop students’ digital literacies as the literature and the Australian curriculum suggest, the learning must meet the students where they are (Honan, 2012; Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2013). And that is across the web, on mobile phones and digital devices according to the 2015 Australian Communications and Media Authority report.
By banning devices in the classroom, teachers may be disengaging their students and contributing to a ‘digital divide’ between themselves and their students. Perhaps we should be taking advantage of the devices that students are already familiar with to communicate and collaborate in authentic learning projects and to create meaningful learning environments. Johnson (2012, p. 139) argues that banning such devices is unsustainable in the long term, making schools more irrelevant in the 21st-century. Furthermore, critics argue that mobile phones serve as a distraction tool, however Johnson counters that distractions occur in any environment and establishing clear expectations such as an Acceptable Use Policy should be standard practice. If students are texting in the classroom, perhaps texting can be used as knowledge building discourse in collaboration with peers (Apple Messages). There are several ways to be distracted, with or without mobile phones and digital devices, perhaps the trick is to provide “engaging” lessons with the tools students are already “engaged” in.
Finally, van’t Hooft argues that we need to go beyond thinking about the devices we use to access learning and start enabling connected, personal and networked lifelong learning (2008, p. 875). I think we have reached a point where these tools are becoming as epochal as the pen and banning them is denying 21st century learning opportunities.
I do acknowledge that my limited experience inhibits my perspective, which may extend beyond the literature when I can see for myself how effectively or ineffectively these tools are used in context.
Australian Communications and Media Authority. (2015). Communications Report 2014-2015. Canberra: Australian Communications and Media Authority. Retrieved from http://www.acma.gov.au/~/media/Research%20and%20Analysis/Report/pdf/ACMA%20Communications%20report%202014-15%20pdf.pdf
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2013). The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Version 4.0. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/_resources/the_shape_of_the_australian_curriculum_v4.pdf
Honan, E. (2012). Using digital texts to engage students. In R. Henderson (Ed.), Teaching Literacies in the Middle Years: Pedagogies and Diversity (pp. 57-80). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Johnson, D. (2012). The Classroom Teacher’s Technology Survival Guide. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Lim, C., Pek, M., & Chai, C. (2005). Classroom management issues in information and communication technology (ICT)-mediated learning environments: Back to basics. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 14(4), 391-414.
van’t Hooft, M. (2008). Personal, Mobile, Connected: The Future of Learning. In J. Voogt, & G. Knezek (Eds.), International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education (Vol. 20, pp. 873-882). New York: Springer.