Mobile Phones in Schools for the next decade

I was listening to episode 97 of the Pragmatic podcast recently and John asked Myke Hurley what would be the one device he could not go without from all the devices he uses. Listen to the anguish in his decision…

Clip from Pragmatic Episode 97

Myke chose his iPhone and qualified it by saying.

Realistically, who can survive in the modern world without a phone these days. It’s becoming more and more difficult no matter where you live in the world to get by without a smart phone.

Mike Hurley, Episode 97 Pragmatic

I also was intrigued to see a post by Jason Mendeloff entitled “iPhone Only” where he shared similar thoughts

I wanted to share my unique point of view when talking about tech and apps. I manage my life on my iPhone only, no iPad or no computer.

This really got me thinking, well first of all, how could anyone disagree with Myke and then as we move into the next decade, should our aim for education to make sure the device we use in education be the most accessible and the one most people have in the modern world?

I find it very short sighted that “leaders” and decision makers are quick to jump on the negatives of mobile phones and quite merrily ban them from schools when they are ignoring the power they have. They could at least qualify the ban by adding that they are actively working with the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google to try and solve the problems they see.

I do believe that “bans” are political and are to give impression of strong decision making, thus appeasing public backlash rather than actual dealing with the problem. Like the recent ban in the Western Australian public education system which, when you look closely, is not really a ban but rather a more clear set of boundaries for when a mobile phone can be used at school.

So in recognising that mobile phones are the primary device of the modern world and in particular teenagers (as of 2018 it’s around 95%), what should we aim for over the next 10 years in education in the use of the technology?

What should schools be doing?

For schools with 1:1 programmes, I think it’s pretty clear the benefits of laptops or iPads, but it is still important to also utilise mobile phones and incorporate them into teaching programs when it is advantageous.

For schools without a 1:1 programme, many of which could be due to the additional financial pressure to their families, allowing mobile phones at school becomes more necessary. These schools should have a vision and plan that sets in place how they will incorporate these devices into the future, maybe by the end of the decade 😉.

All schools need to identify and work together on the biggest issues they see as the “ban-able” problem.

Does this include investigating using technologies like Apples screen time and educating parents and how to set it up?

Does it include making recommendations on what phone parents should buy?

Does it include education departments and governments actively working on a solution?

It seems to me these are steps that should be being talked about in public and be seen as problems to solve.

Outside of schools I would like to see software and hardware developers to become more focused on mobile phone first applications. I see far too often developers taking the “easy” route of making theirs apps for desktop/laptop devices or having mobile apps they are not functionally complete.

When I first started teaching we spoke about the digital divide – those who could afford a computer and those who could not. The question now should be more about those who cannot afford more than one device.

I would also like to see Apple, Microsoft and Google actively and publicly working to solve the problems faced with mobile phones at school. These are difficult issues and they have a big part to play. How about having the Apple Classroom app working on iPhones too?

Finally, this year in my classes that involve app development I am actively making students aware of why we are making apps. In particular our i3 (I Cubed) class we are solving problems based the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the students need to make an app. Many of these goals are targeted at countries where mobile phones are more common than laptops or iPads. They also rely on mobile technology for their Internet connection. This has become a discussion for the class and giving reason for our focus on iPhone development.

I really do hope we get past the negatives of mobile phones at school and society begins the process to acknowledge all the positives.