Hull shows why Gove's Govt can't ban mobile phones in schools
Michael Gove has unearthed an unpopular policy from 2007 with his plans to ban mobile phones in the classroom from this summer. It's a daft policy, reflecting a small (minority) group's gut feel and no research or reflection, and below is a classroom example showing - simply - why he's wrong to consider it.
We'll no doubt see forthcoming policies banning the use pencils (you can flick 'em across the desk and poke kids in the ribs with them, you know) and we'll stop teaching children how to read the poetry of Wilfred Owen, lest they get upset at the gore of war, despite the fact they see it every night on the television. The rationale for all such anti-mobile, anti-internet, anti-anything policy is "safety", but its implementation creates a false sense of security in school, further growing the bubble in which schooling lives while the real world races by youngsters unprepared to deal with it.
The Scottish Conservatives have this week also revealed where Tory policies actually originate from: circa 1948, I believe (and so do the press). They'd have disengaged youngsters leaving school at 14 years old to learn a trade, despite the fact that in Scottish schools there are already ample opportunities for youngsters to focus on vocational skills, and 25,000 new apprenticeships were announced just before the closing of this Parliament.
A simple classroom example: students know how to harness mobile for learning
Politics over, though (and I've got some inherent biases, like everyone), there's a more serious point here about how wonderful mobile phones are becoming for learning, and how we're merely scratching the computer power they offer. That computing power is often superior to that provided by billions of pounds worth of Dell, RM or other well-known brands of black boxes thrown into schools each year. But the high-computing potential of mobile phones may be lost on Gove and his Ministers, so I'm going to pick a much simpler example.
I've been thrilled with some work I'm doing in Hull this past week, and have seen some stunning enquiry-based learning in the secondary school where I'm working on technology integration.
But it was in a science classroom, with students needing to keep time in a heatloss experiment, where they came into their own. Schools, when I was a pupil in one, invested a relatively high sum in 'scientific' stop clocks - these single-purpose devices come in at about £10/$20. But students have no interest in using these when they have a more accurate stopclock, and a host of other tools, sitting in their pockets. Having cleared it with the teacher, students unearthed a wide array of wonderfully accurate kit: iPod touches, shuffles, iPhones and, in huge numbers, Blackberries (above).
In another area, a student conducted a quick Google search to seek out the image she wanted to work from in a design and technology class. Students in other classes, using laptops provided by the school, took about 12 minutes to get them out, get logged in and get searching. Students on their cell phones took about 40 seconds.
Write to Mr Gove - and your government, too
Doug Belshaw and others have launched an open letter to Mr Gove - and other Education Ministeries, too - to explain why mobile phone technology, far from being banned in schools, must be embraced, and teachers and parents equipped with the intellectual, pedagogical and societal skills to harness their potential with youngsters. I encourage you to add to it.