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

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The Independent Online

Hilary'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 argument must be that they will be distracting and annoying, with pupils texting, sexting and cyber-surfing under their desks and not concentrating on their lesson.

But is this argument right? Phones are evolving rapidly and, as one head has pointed out recently, many schoolchildren now have more technological power in their pockets 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 their mobiles 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 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 a blinkered option.

In 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.

Readers' advice

I am only 13 but do your fellow teachers not realise the consequences of allowing pupils to use their phones in class? It would do no good. What use is there for phones in education, as there are computers in most classrooms now? Second, it allows pupils to cheat easily and, from personal experience, I know that it will be distracting. It's bad enough using computers in lessons, but with phones every class would be afflicted with pupils chatting to someone on the other side of the room or looking up YahooAnswers.

Sarah Laing, Aberdeenshire

I am horrified that any school would consider allowing pupils to use mobiles. At home we insist that our children turn them off at meal times, bedtime, and when they do their homework. They always stop what they are doing at the ping of a text and if that carries on into school they will lose all concentration.

Sarah Bowes-Carter, Berkshire

School is where children go to be educated about the world and the learning or wisdom they acquire from their elders is better than anything they will learn by looking things up on the internet. You should be proud of your experience as an older teacher and understand that you are wise to be, if not a technophobe, at least a technosceptic. Pupils spend all their free time at the computer. A classroom should be a place in the real world.

Mike O'Neil, Liverpool

Is there real educational value in learning poetry by heart? My father made me learn poems when I was young, but I did not do it with my children, because I remembered the stress and arguments. Now that the Tories want to bring it back to schools, I am wondering if I was wrong?

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