With much discussion about the use of mobile phones in schools at the moment, I thought it would be interesting to gather some opinions about how this can be managed. Please do add your comments and suggestions about how teachers can best proceed in this area. The Mobile Phone Debate Old clunky computers that take twenty minutes to load, forgotten passwords for online homework accounts, lost scraps of paper containing vital revision notes…these are traditional classroom problems but is there an easy solution? In students’ pockets, perhaps their hands, or maybe banned and hidden in lockers, lie powerful and personalised computers. They load instantly, are adaptable, good for note taking in various forms, and kids weirdly never forget their passwords. It is probably true to say that most students now have a mobile phone, usually an expensive and up to date smartphone. The spread is vast even in primary schools. They know how to use them, how to access and share information through them and they love doing so. Whether we can safely and fairly harness the positive aspects of mobile phone usage in the classroom, without opening ourselves and our students up to dangers and distractions, is an issue upon which the education community is divided. Whether your school has a complete ban or you are free to make your own judgement, here are some issues and scenarios it is worth considering before you make up your mind on the mobile phone debate. Theft: The iphone 7 costs £599. Popping that in the blazer pocket of a twelve-year-old who has PE second lesson simply doesn’t seem sensible. Much as we wish it wasn’t part of our lives in school and in society, expensive goods cause temptation and when this can be minimised, it should be. Although many schools will ask parents/carers to sign agreements regarding the lack of responsibility over the loss of phones and other valuables, that won’t stop time consuming investigations and damaging accusations being thrown around. As an individual teacher, be very wary of taking personal control of a child’s phone. If your school policy asks you to confiscate it under certain circumstances, make sure you are clear about where you hand it in and who takes responsibility for it until it is returned to the pupil. Avoid a situation where you place it in a drawer and then leave your classroom unlocked. You might find yourself personally liable for that £599. Bullying: Modern children are hugely unfortunate in that it is very difficult for them to get away from each other. They pervade each other’s lives through social media, whatsapp, snap chat and multi-player games in ways that can be difficult to control. This means that bullying can follow them wherever they go. Although banning phones in school doesn’t eradicate these problems, and certainly many schools have developed robust systems often supported by community police officers to tackle these issues, it can at least ensure that offensive messages are not being sent from within the school grounds. As a teacher, it is very difficult to observe and monitor the precise use of a phone if you have allowed it to be included in your lesson. You can’t make children be friends but you should be responsible for the manner in which they interact in your classroom. Ensure you feel confident you can control that if you allow your students to use their phones. Time wasting: We hear the arguments about phones being a distraction and many of us, as adults, will admit to vast swathes of time spent using them. Students really don’t need any additional ways of avoiding work and even the most diligent will check a message if it pops up whilst they are using the internet to do some research. Time will be wasted and it is for you to judge whether that is still more efficient than waiting for the, perhaps limited, ICT available through the school. Studies suggest an average person checks their phone 85 times a day. Allowing phones to be on tables or even in pockets increases the chances that this is taking place during your teaching time. If your school doesn’t have a clear policy, be aware that you will also waste time on arguments if you choose to allow phones in some circumstances and not others. If phones are allowed to be in pockets but are meant to be confiscated if seen, that is also a potential time waster, particularly if the student will not comply and you are forced to follow it up. Issues around fairness can result in further arguments if you allow students to use their phones for say, listening to music, when some have headphones and others don’t. Ultimately, what may have been intended as a treat or some pleasant individual working time, often ends up with arguments and disgruntled students so tread carefully. In the real world, students will have to learn to compromise and collaborate so they need to be practising those skills in school. It’s worth considering whether giving students the chance to plug in and opt out of interaction may also remove their only conversation of the day. I have seen students watching films on their phone alone in classrooms at lunch time instead of making the effort, however difficult that may be for some, to engage with their peers. Whilst that won’t happen in a lesson, engendering an environment where it’s acceptable to have half an eye on the phone does nothing for the development of social skills. Exploitation of the teacher: photos taken, videos recorded, “evidence” gathered… We have all heard horror stories of teachers being put in difficult or awkward situations. There are times when a teacher may even be violated or harassed through the misuse of phones in the classroom. As a teacher you will be diligent about the privacy settings on your Facebook account; you will never use your personal mobile phone to take photographs of school activities. But what happens when it’s the other way around and a pupil takes a photograph of you which they then share across the school? What about when a child films you telling someone off and, with no context, uses it to ‘prove’ you are picking on them? You need to protect yourself as much as your students and allowing phones to be used in your classroom opens up a plethora of potential hazards. If you decide to allow it, you need to be vigilant and confident in the relationship you have established with those students. Ultimately, it is most helpful if one single decision is made by the head or management and then applied consistently across the school. Arguments for the use of phones, both as learning tools and as safety precautions when children travel alone, are valid and it would be positive to think that we could make use of the many educational apps and opportunities out there. However, the cons must not be ignored and teachers need to make their decisions, set their rules accordingly and be supported by their managers. Please note that this forum, including all content posted in it (whether by you or us or on our behalf), is subject to our General Terms and Conditions which can be found here:https://www.tes.com/us/terms-and-conditions.As set out in our General Terms and Conditions, the content and posts in this forum are for general information only and are not intended to, nor do they, constitute legal or other professional advice or services or a recommendation to purchase any product or service or a recommendation upon which any specific decision should be made. 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