Should mobile phones be banned during the school day? | Portsmouth High School

Should mobile phones be banned during the school day?

On Friday I travelled to the Bett exhibition at the Excel centre in London to view the latest in educational technology. It is an annual pilgrimage and this time my experience was made all the better because Yvonne Williams, our Head of English, had been invited to present and participate in a panel of experts’ discussion.

I am sure the attendees at the event won’t mind me describing them as computer geeks. Whilst I couldn’t include my level of expertise with theirs it is no secret that I enjoy learning about new digital ways to enhance educational progress. I am a member of the Independent Schools’ Digital Strategy Group and through that forum learn much about the most modern use of technology in schools. At the exhibition I was impressed with the number of ways that have been developed for the use of mobile phones as a learning tool. Digital devices, for example, were used to enter into the wonderful world of 3D exploration and apps enabled children and parents to access school projects really easily. It was hard not be excited.

In early January a school announced with great fanfare that they had introduced a complete ban on mobile phones. The Head claimed this new policy had freed youngsters from the stress of social media and allowed the pupils to concentrate on their studies. He continued to say that it had revolutionised pupil behaviour.

If we don’t allow children to have their phones to hand then we bar access to a different approach to learning. Children are not always angels and I appreciate there is a temptation to look at their phone rather than concentrate in class.

However, many of our older girls will soon be in work and then they have to learn phone etiquette and furthermore resist temptation. We show them good examples in school and a worthwhile use of their digital device.Much of the silliness on social media happens away from school. I am not sure how banning phones during the school day – the very time when they have the least amount of free time to use them – is helpful.

Carol Midgley in the Times said that she could quite see the allure of the phone when sitting in a boring geography lesson. Maybe this comment irritated me because I am a geography teacher. However, I would like to think that at PHS we teach in such an engaging way that anyone reaching for their phone is doing so to check some geographical data or look up some interesting world fact as part of the lesson.

We have to stop demonising mobile phones. They are not going to go away and with more than a nod to irony as phones develop they move away from being good at their core purpose of being a phone. They are a digital map, a health check, an encyclopaedia, a notebook and so on. Phones are used for so much more than making calls.

It is important that we embrace technology and teach children appropriate use. If adults don’t stay informed of the latest developments then we will be totally reliant on our digital savvy children. Banning technology is not in my view the way forward. Rather we teach about excellent application whilst warning of the dangers of inappropriate use.