Mobile Phones, Classrooms and Culture

It is incredibly disingenuous for conference experts to make claims about mobile phone benefits in classrooms. I know this is a popular verse, however what they fail to explain is — what cultural contexts are they talking about?

Firstly, phones are computers. They therefore have a potential to access and process information. Making this observation is facile in todays society, yet time and again I hear it used simply to drive their deterministic argument based mostly on their opinion rather than research or recent classroom experience. Throw shoes at the next person who trots this out as a crowd pleaser.

Secondly, mobile phones in many schools are simply a social-menace. Signs adorn classroom doors which children ignore, unable to stop fiddling with the magic portal to their more interesting (so they think) social life and right to communicate with whomever and whenever they want. Parents often fund these devices on a thin argument of ‘safety’, when actually it’s all about much more profound changes in society, related directly to communications and the politics of social filtering.

I won’t dispute some teachers, some schools and some cultures have made mobile phones work as part of blended learning. They become recognised as tools for particular purposes at certain times. Again, this will almost certainly be in places where teachers have learned about ‘blended learning’ and how to educate children on media usage. I would hypothesise these places will also be where BYO-MacbookPro has been normal for some time too.

In public education – post the DER and the non-supply of laptops – the single biggest rising technology is the photocopier (a billion dollar business) and the biggest single social problem is the mobile phone and the connected distractions they bring to students who are less motivated than those in wealthier schools with deeper pockets and supports.

Not only did schools not get Gonski funding, they also lost the DER funding which (if you have been in a classroom) has clearly had a huge impact on both how students learn and slowing of the considerable momentum which was gained. BYOD is nothing but a false promise without starting to address the current culture of mobile phones — as seen by children — and the regressive nature of school technology funding.

I would imagine teachers now spend several hours a week dealing with children who seem incapable of putting down a phone let alone using to Google an answer.

I can’t see at all how mobile phones can be removed, banished or disabled in classrooms, but equally without addressing the wider cultural and social divides which have emerged post DER, there is a new elephant in the room when it comes to classroom management as well as how to show teachers how to put blended learning into practice.