The summer break is almost over. The kids will soon be back at school. Will they be taking mobiles back in with them? This generation is the first to have been born into the anytime, anyplace anywhere mobile communications culture but schools are struggling to acknowledge let alone deal with this seismic shift in society.
Common policies include a blanket ban on all phones in school, which can be tricky when the school subsequently requires pupils to contact home when for example, there are transport difficulties.
Slightly more progressive schools allow phones to be brought in but have strict rules about when devices can be used (usually before and after schools). This is a more realistic approach as we need to accept that mobiles are here to stay and the quicker children are taught about phone etiquette and what is acceptable in formal circumstances, the better.
So this is good and all moving in the right direction but the next step is for schools to actually harness the potential of the technology in the backpack and introduce BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) schemes in school.
Updating school IT equipment can be prohibitively expensive yet 1st generation iPhones could be more powerful than some of the dustier desktops in the computer lab. Companies such as Avaya and HP are racing to develop in-classroom apps for mobile devices. One idea is that a teacher presenting a maths problem can ensure that every student has answered and understood the question.
Of course, there are other issues that the school need to address – appropriate use of mobile (to deter bullying or sexting), the question of liability (when a defamatory comment/picture does go public), equality (who has the best phone) but to be fair, these are all age old issues that have just been given a new channel. And they are not issues that will go away.
The smart move for schools is to empower and inspire pupils to make the most effective use of mobile devices for educational as well as social and leisure purposes.