Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
Image of Hilary Wilce

The Quandary - 11 Mar 2010

Our school may allow pupils to use mobile phones in the classroom. How can I best argue against it?

Hillary's Advice

This teacher says he is older, and does not want to look like a technophobe, but that mobiles have no place in his classroom. His obvious argument must be that they will be distracting and annoying, with pupils texting, sexting and cyber-surfing under their desks and not concentrating on the lesson in hand.

But is this argument right? Phones are evolving rapidly and, as one head recently pointed out, many schoolchildren now have in their pockets more technological power than their school will ever be able to buy for them.

Also, teenagers live by their phones, and it makes obvious sense to them to use them everywhere. So teachers who make them, say, laboriously copy a diagram off the board when the obvious thing to them would be to whip out their phone and take a photograph of it, will not seem very relevant to their lives.

No, phones are here to stay and it makes sense to consider how to harness their power to education. They will obviously need to close management, and issues such as what to do about pupils who have no phone will need to be addressed. But to continue to operate a blanket ban increasingly seems like a blinkered option.

n my day, new-fangled biros were forbidden in favour of old-fashioned fountain pens. If we never allowed educational innovations we would still be teaching children to write on parchment and calculate with abacuses. Times change and schools have a duty to consider how to change with them.