Are We Still Doing This?

The Education Secretary in the United Kingdom, Gillian Keegan, wants head teachers (aka principals) in the country to “ban pupils from using mobile phones during the entire school day”.

Didn’t we already try that? Like more than ten years ago?

It would be nice if the BBC article had explained why, as in how a ban would help improve student learning, but it doesn’t go beyond statements from the different political groups.

They do mention that proposed bans from the past went nowhere, and that “many” say the ban is unnecessary since “a majority of schools in England were already taking action”.

However, this is just a whole lot of deja vu. I’ve been around long enough to have seen more than a few attempts to block the use of phones in schools. By students, of course. No one would ever propose the same thing for teachers, right?

The first round of bans happened in the mid to late 90’s when pocketable cell phones first started spreading. Lots of administrators here in the overly-large school district decreed students shall not have them. And it quickly fell apart.

Another round of banning came around 2010 when the iPhone 4 exploded in popularity, especially in the wealthy neighborhoods around here where parents could afford to give their kids the phones and pay for the expensive plans that went with them.

While most schools continue to try enforcing no-phone policies, many creative teachers went the other direction and tried to find ways to incorporate these always-connected, hand-held computers into their instruction. Which is the smart way to go, even though educators do always do the smart thing.

Anyway, in addition to the proposed national ban in the UK, “France and China have already introduced national bans on phones in schools, with the Netherlands set to follow suit in 2024”. Considering kids around the world don’t respond well to bans, I suspect these efforts won’t be very successful.

Do the bans include watches? Many of those devices can already send and receive texts, store information, and even make phone calls. And far more capable wearables are coming soon.

I wonder if we’ll still be doing this dance in ten years when the technology will be smaller, more powerful, and full of AI.

Stay tuned.

The picture was taken in the library of a high school not too far from here. Not exactly a “ban” but I would think a portable computer would be useful in a library. I could be wrong.

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