Should cellphones be allowed in school?
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A mobile is the same: a potentially potent tool for learning but strangely feared in a school pupil's hand, where it is assumed to wreak havoc with concentration, unleash cyber bullying and surreptitiously video up teachers' skirts.
But isn't it also madness when schools that cannot afford modern IT facilities ignore the powerful computers in every pupils' pocket?
I was amazed when I visited my old school recently: having remarked how sorry I felt for teachers in the mobile era, several teachers immediately declared how useful they were in class. There's even an acronym for it: BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. As one teacher has argued in the Guardian, this is the future: students using their trusted devices rather than a machine they leave in school at the end of each day.
Jo Debens, a geography teacher at Priory School, Portsmouth, a comprehensive with a mixed intake, was dashing out to take 30 pupils orienteering when we spoke: her students were testing whether it was easier to use an OS map or a mobile phone's mapping services.
Earlier this year, the school drew up a "mobile device policy" in consultation with students. Mobile phones are allowed in school and used in class at the teacher's discretion, with a clear system of sanctions applied for misuse. Since the policy was introduced, only 1.4% of negative behavioural incidents have been connected with mobiles.
Pupils record homework tasks on their phone's calendar (why do they forget homework diaries but never their textbooks?) and in Debens's geography classes they use the camera function to record things and report back to class. They also use mobile internet for independent research.
"We're always being told as teachers that we should give pupils differentiated learning and personalise it. Now they can," says Debens of using mobiles. "Like anything, it's only useful in the hands of the user. They are not the be-all and end-all. We would have death by Wikipedia if all people were doing was cutting and pasting from them."
"I was very anti phones," admits Nasim Jahangir, a business and economics teacher at Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College, Leicester. Several years ago, however, she incorporated smartphones into lessons as she "learned to teach in a different way" " with an emphasis on independent study. She admits it is probably easier to ensure his A-level classes use phones constructively but she thinks it has improved behaviour. "The whole atmosphere in the class has changed," she says, becoming less adversarial, with students policing themselves over inappropriate phone use.
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